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It will readily be understood that the Authors of 
the ensuing Essays are responsible for their respective 
articles only. They have written in entire indepen- 
dence of each other, and without concert or comparison. 
The Volume, it is hoped, will be received as an 
attempt to illustrate the advantage derival^le to the 
cause of religious and moral truth, from a free hand- 
ling, in a becoming spirit, of subjects peculiarly liable 
to suffer by the repetition of conventional language, 
and from traditional methods of treatment. 



The Education of the World. By Frederick Temple, D.D., 
Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen ; Head Master of 
Hugby School ; Chaplain to the Earl of Denbigh . . i 

Bunsen's Biblical Researches. By Rowland Williams, D.D., 
Vice-Principal and Professor of Hebrew, St. David's 
College, Lampeter j Vicar of Broad Chalke, Wilts . . 50 

On the Study of the Evidences of Christianity. By Baden 
Powell, M.A., F.R.S., Savilian Professor of Geometry 
in the University of Oxford 04 

Seances Historiques' de Geneve. The National Church. By 
Henry Bristow Wilson, B.D., Vicar of Great Staugh- 
ton, Hunts j,k 

On the Mosaic Cosmogony. By C. W. Goodwin, M.A. . . 207 

Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688— 1750, 

ByMARK Pattison, B.D 254 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. By Benjamin Jowett, 
M.A., Regius Professor of Greek in the University of 
^^f°^^ 330 

Note on Bunsen's Biblical Researches 434 


IN a world of mere plienomena, where all events are 
bound to one another by a rigid law of cause and 
effect, it is possible to imagine the course of a long 
period bringing all things at the end of it into exactly 
the same relations as they occupied at the beginning. 
We should, then, obviously have a succession of cycles 
rigidly similar to one another, both in events and in 
the sequence of them. The universe vrould eternally 
repeat the same changes in a fixed order of recurrence, 
though each cycle might be many millions of years in 
length. Moreover, the precise similarity of these 
cycles would render the very existence of each one of 
them entirely unnecessary. We can suppose, without 
any logical inconsequence, any one of them struck out, 
and the two which had been destined to precede and 
follow it brought into immediate contiguity. 

This supposition transforms the universe into a 
dead machine. The lives and the souls of men 
become so indifferent, that the annihilation of a whole 
human race, or of many such races, is absolutely 
nothing. Every event passes away as it happens, 
filling its place in the sequence, but purposeless for 
the future. The order of all things becomes, not 
merely an iron rule, from wdiich nothing can ever 
swerve, but an iron rule which guides to nothing and 
ends in nothing. 

Such a supposition is possible to the logical under- 
standing ; it is not possible to the spirit. The human 


2 Tlie Education of the World. 

heart refuses to believe in a universe without a pur- 
pose. To the spirit, all things that exist must have a 
purpose, and nothing can pass away till that purpose 
be fulfilled. The lapse of time is no exception to this 
demand. Each moment of time, as it passes, is taken 
up in the shape of permanent results into the time 
that follows, and only perishes by being converted 
into something more substantial than itself. A series 
of recurring cycles, however conceivable to the logical 
understanding, is inconceivable to the spirit ; for every 
later cycle must be made different from every earlier 
by the mere fact of coming after it and embodying its 
results. The material world may possibly be subject 
to such a rule, and may, in successive epochs, be the 
cradle of successive races of spiritual beings. But the 
world of spirits cannot be a mere machine. 

In accordance with this difference between the 
material and the spiritual worlds, we ought to be 
prepared to find progress in the latter, however much 
fixity there may be in the former. The earth may 
still be describing precisely the same orbit as that 
which was assigned to her at the creation. The 
seasons may be precisely the same. The planets, the 
moon, and the stars, may be unchanged both in ap- 
pearance and in reality. But man is a spiritual as 
well as a material creature, must be subject to the laws 
of the spiritual as well as to those of the material world, 
and cannot stand still because things around him do. 
Now, that the individual man is capable of perpetual, 
or almost perpetual, development from the clay of his 
birth to that of his death, is obvious of course. But 
we may well expect to find something more than this 
in a spiritual creature who does not stand alone, but 
forms a part of a whole world of creatures like himself 
Man cannot be considered as an individual. He is, 
in reality, only man by virtue of his being a member 
of the human race. Any other animal that we know 
would probably not be very different in its nature if 

The Education of the World. 

brought up from its very birth apart from all its 
kind. A child so brought up becomes, as instances 
could be adduced to prove, not a man in the full sense 
at all, but rather a beast in human shape, with human 
faculties, no doubt, hidden underneath, but with no 
hope in this life of ever developing those faculties into 
true humanity. If, then, the whole in this case, as in 
so many others, is prior to the parts, we may con- 
clude, that we are to look for that progress which is 
essential to a spiritual being subject to the lapse of 
time, not only in the individual, but also quite as 
much in the race taken as a whole. We may expect 
to find, in the history of man, each successive age in- 
corporating into itself the substance of the preceding. 

Tliis power, whereby the present ever gathers into ' 
itself the results of the past, transforms the human 
race into a colossal man, whose life reaches from the 
creation to the day of judgment. The successive 
generations of men are days in this man's life. The 
discoveries and inventions which characterize the dif- 
ferent epochs of the world's history are his works. 
The creeds and doctrines, the opinions and principles 
of the successive ages, are his thoughts. The state of 
societ}^ at difterent times are his manners. He grows 
in knowledge, in self-control, in visible size, just as we 
do. And his education is in the same way and for 
the same reason precisely similar to ours. 

All this is no figure but only a compendious state- 
ment of a very comprehensive fact. The child that is 
born to-day may possibly have the same faculties'^ 
as if he had been born in the days of Noah ; if it be 
otherwise, we possess no means of determining the / 
difference. But the equality of the natural faculties 
at starting will not prevent a vast difference in their 
ultimate development. That development is entirely \ 
under the control of the influences exerted by the 
society in w^hich the child may chance to live. If J 
such society be altogether denied, the faculties perish, 

B a 


\}^ V V 


4 T/ie Bducalion of the World. 

and the child (as remarked above) grows up a beast 
and not a man ; if the society be uneducated and 
coarse, the growth of the faculties is early so stunted 
as never afterwards to be capable of recovery ; if the 
society be highly cultivated, the child will be culti- 
vated also, and will show, more or less, through life, 
the fruits of that cultivation. Hence each generation 
receives the benefit of the cultivation of that which 
preceded it. Not in knowledge only but in develop- 
ment of powers, the child of twelve now stands at the 
level where once stood the child of fourteen, where 
ages ago stood the full-grown man. The discipline 
of manners, of temper, of thought, of feeling, is trans- 
mitted from generation to generation, and at each 
transmission there is an imperceptible but unfailing 
increase. The perpetual accumulation of the stores 
of knowledge is so much more visible than the change 
in the other ingredients of human progress, that we 
are apt to fancy that knowledge grows and knowledge 
only. I shall not stop to examine whether it be true 
(as is sometimes maintained) that all progress in 
human society is but the effect of the progress of 
knowledge. For the present it is enough to point 
out that knowledge is not the only possession of the 
human spirit in which progress can be traced. 
j We may, then, rightly speak of a childhood, a 
I youth, and a manhood of the world. The men of the 
earliest ages were, in many respects, still children as 
compared with ourselves, with all the blessings and with 
all the disadvantages that belong to childhood. We 
reap the fruits of their toil, and bear in our characters 
the impress of their cultivation. Our characters have 
grown out of their history, as the character of the man 
grows out of the history of the child. There are 
matters in which the simplicity of ehildhood is wiser 
than the maturity of manhood, and in these they were 
wiser than we. There are matters in which the child 
is nothing, and the man everything, and in these we 

The Ediicatio7i of ilie World. 5 

are the gainers. And tlie process bj which we have 
either lost or gained corresponds, stage by stage, with 
the process by which the infant is trained for youth, 
and the youth for manhood. 

This training has three stages. In childhood we 
are subject to positive rules which we cannot under- 
stand, but are bound implicitly to obey. In youth 
we are subject to the influence of example, and soon 
break loose from all rules unless illustrated and 
enforced by the higher teaching which example im- 
parts. In manhood we are comparatively free from 
external restraints, and if we are to learn, must be our 
own instructors. First come Eules,then Examples, then 
Principles. First comes the Law, then the Son of 
Man, then the Gift of the Spirit. The world was 
once a child under tutors and governors until the 
time appointed by the Father. Then, wlien the fit 
season had arrived, the Example to which all ages 
should turn was sent to teach men what they ought 
to be. Then the human race was left to itself to be 
guided by the teacliing of the Spirit within. 

The education of the world, like that of the child, 
begins with Law. It is impossible to explain the 
reasons of all the commands that you give to a child, 
and you do not endeavour to do so. When he is to 
go to bed, when he is to get up, how he is to sit, 
stand, eat, drink, what answers he is to make when 
spoken to, what he may touch and what he may not, 
what prayers he shall say and when, what lessons he 
is to learn, every detail of manners and of conduct 
the careful mother teaches her child, and requires 
implicit obedience. Mingled together in her teaching 
are commands of the most trivial character and com- 
mands of the gravest importance ; their relative value 
marked by a difference of manner rather than by any- 
thing else, since to explain it is impossible. Mean- 
while to the child obedience is the highest duty, 
affection the highest stimulus, the mother's word the 

6 The Ediicatio?i of the Woild. 

highest sanction. The conscience is alive, but it is, 
like the other faculties of that age, irregular, unde- 
veloped, easily deceived. The mother does not leave 
it uncultivated, nor refuse sometimes to explain her 
motives for commanding or forbidding ; but she never 
thinks of putting the judgment of the child against 
her own, nor of considering the child's conscience as 
having a right to free action. 

As the child grows older the education changes its 
character, not so much in regard to the sanction of its 
precepts as in regard to their tenor. More stress is 
laid upon matters of real duty, less upon matters of 
mere manner. Falsehood, quarrelling, bad-temper, 
greediness, indolence, are more attended to than times 
of going to bed, or fashions of eating, or postures in 
sitting. The boy is allowed to feel, and to show that 
he feels, the difference between different commands. 
But he is still not left to himself : and though points 
of manner are not put on a level with points of con- 
duct, they are by no means neglected. Moreover, 
while much stress is laid upon his deeds, little is laid 
upon his opinions ; he is rightly supposed not to have 
any, and will not be allowed to plead them as a reason 
for disobedience. 

After a time, however, the intellect begins to assert 
a right to enter into all questions of duty, and the 
intellect accordingly is cultivated. The reason is ap- 
pealed to in all questions of conduct : the conse- 
quences of folly or sin are pointed out, and the 
punishment which, without any miracle, God invariably 
brings upon those who disobey His natural laws — 
how, for instance, falsehood destro3^s confidence and 
incurs contempt ; how indulgence in appetite tends to 
brutal and degrading habits j how ill-temper may end 
in crime, and must end in mischief. Thus the con- 
science is reached through the understanding. 

Now, precisely analogous to all this is the history 
of the education of the early world. The earliest 

The Educatioti of the World. 7 

commands almost entirely refer to bodily appetites 
and animal passions. The earliest wide-spread sin 
was brutal violence. That wilfulness of temper, 
— those germs of wanton cruelty, which the mother 
corrects so easily in her infant, were developed in 
the earliest form of human society into a prevailing- 
plague of wickedness. The few notices which are given 
of that state of mankind do not present a picture of 
mere lawlessness, such as we find among the medieval 
nations of Europe, but of blind, gross ignorance of 
themselves and all around them. Atheism is possible 
now, but Lamech's presumptuous comparison of him- 
self with Grod is impossible, and the thought of 
building a tower high enough to escape Gfod's wrath 
could enter no man's dreams. We sometimes see in 
very little children a violence of temper which seems 
hardly human : add to such a temper the strength of 
a full-grown man, and we shall perhaps understand 
what is meant by the expression, that the earth was 
filled with violence. 

Violence was followed by sensuality. Such was 
the sin of Noah, Ham, Sodom, Lot's daughters, and 
the guilty Canaanites. Animal appetites — the appe- 
tites which must be subdued in childhood if they are 
to be subdued at all — were still the temptation oi 
mankind. Such sins are, it is true, prevalent in the 
world even now. But the peculiarity of these early 
forms of licentiousness is their utter disregard of 
every kind of restraint, and this constitutes their 
childish character. 

The education of this early race may strictly be 
said to begin when it was formed into the various 
masses out of which the nations of the earth have 
sprung. The world, as it were, went to school, and 
was broken up into classes. Before that time it can 
hardly be said that any great precepts had been given. 
The only commands which claim an earlier date are the 
prohibitions of murder and of eating blood. An6. 

8 TJie Education of the World. 

these may be considered as given to all alike. But 
the whole lesson of humanity was too much to be 
learned by all at once. Different parts of it fell to the 
task of different parts of the human race, and for a 
lono- time, thoug-h the education of the world flowed 
in parallel channels, it did not form a single stream. 

The Jewish nation, selected among all as the 
depository of what may be termed, in a pre-eminent 
sense, religious truth, received after a short prepara- 
tion, the Mosaic system. This system is a mixture 
of moral and positive commands : the latter, precise 
and particular, ruling the customs, the festivals, the 
worship, the daily food, the dress, the very touch ; the 
former large, clear, simple, peremptory. There is 
very little directly spiritual. No freedom of conduct 
or of opinion is allowed. The difference between dif- 
ferent precepts is not forgotten ; nor is all natural 
judgment in morals excluded. But the reason for all 
the minute commands is never given. Wliy they 
may eat the sheep and not the pig they are not told. 
The commands are not confined to general principles, 
but run into such details as to forbid tattooing or dis- 
figuring the person, to command the wearing of a 
blue fringe, and the like. That such commands 
should be sanctioned by divine authority is utterly 
irreconcileable with our present feelings. But in the 
Mosaic system the same peremptory legislation deals 
with all these matters, whether important or trivial. 
The fact is, that however trivial they might be in 
relation to the authority which they invoked, they were 
not trivial in relation to the people who were to be 
governed and taught. 

The teaching of the Law was followed by the com- 
ments of the Prophets. It is impossible to mistake 
the complete change of tone and spirit. The ordi- 
nances indeed remain, and the obligation to observe 
them is always assumed. But they have sunk to the 
second place. The national attention is distinctly 

TJie Education of the World. 9 

fixed on the higher precepts. Disregard of the ordi- 
nances is, in fact, rarely noticed, in comparison with 
breaches of the great human laws of love and brotherly 
kindness, of truth and justice. There are but two 
sins against the ceremonial law which receive marked 
attention — idolatry" and sabbath-breaking ; and these 
do not occupy a third of the space devoted to the 
denunciation of cruelty and oppression, of mal- 
administration of justice, of impurity and intem- 
perance. Nor is the change confined to the precepts 
enforced : it extends to the sanction which enforces 
them. Throughout the Prophets there is an evident 
reference to the decision of individual conscience, 
which can rarely be found in the Books of Moses.j 
Sometimes, as in Ezekiel's comment on the Second 
Commandment, a distinct appeal is made from the 
letter of the law to the voice of natural equity. 
Sometimes, as in the opening of Isaiah, the ceremo- 
nial sacrifices are condemned for the sins of those who 
offered them. Or, again, fasting is spiritualized into 
self-denial. And the tone taken in this teaching is 
such as to imply a previous breach, not so much of 
positive commands, as of natural morality. It is 
assumed that the hearer will find within himself a 
sufficient sanction for the precepts. It is no longer, 
as in the law, ' I am the Lord ;' but, ' Hath not he 
showed thee, man, what is good ?' And hence the 
style becomes argumentative instead of peremptory, 
and the teacher pleads instead of dogmatizing. In 
the meanwhile, however, no hint is ever given of a 
permission to dispense with the ordinances even in 
the least degree. The child is old enough to under- 
stand, but not old enough to be left to himself He 
is not yet a man. He must still conform to the rules 
of his father's house, whether or not those rules suit 
his temper or approve themselves to his judgment. 

The comments of the Prophets were followed in 
their turn by the great Lesson of the Captivity. Then 

10 The Education of the World. 

for the first time the Jews learned, what that Law and 
the Prophets had been for centuries vainly endea- 
vouring to teach them, namely, to abandon for ever 
polytheism and idolatry. But though this change in 
their national habits and character is unmistakeable, 
it might seem at first sight as if it were no more than 
an external and superficial amendment, and that their 
growth in moral and spiritual clearness, though trace- 
able with certainty up to this date, at any rate 
received a check afterwards. For it is undeniable 
that, in the time of our Lord, the Sadducees had 
lost all depth of spiritual feeling, while the Pharisees 
had succeeded in converting the Mosaic system 
into so mischievous an idolatry of forms, that St. 
Paul does not hesitate to call the law the strength 
of sin. But in spite of this it is nevertheless clear 
that even the Pharisaic teaching contained elements 
of a more spiritual religion than the original Mosaic 
system. Thus, for instance, the importance attached 
by the Pharisees to prayer is not to be found in the law. 
The worship under the law consisted almost entirely 
of sacrifices. With the sacrifices we may presume that 
prayer was always offered, but it was not positively 
commanded ; and, as a regular and necessary part of 
worship, it first appears in the later books of the Old 
Testament, and is never even there so earnestly insisted 
upon as afterwards by the Pharisees. It was in fact 
in the captivity, far from the temple and the sacrifices 
of the temple, that the Jewish people first learned that 
the spiritual part of worship could be separated from 
the ceremonial, and that of the two the spiritual was 
far the higher. The first introduction of preaching 
and the reading of the Bible in the synagogues 
belong to the same date. The careful study of the 
law, though it degenerated into formality, was yet in 
itself a more intellectual service than the earlier 
records exhibit. And this study also, though com- 
mencing earlier, attains its maximum after the cap- 

The Education of the World. 11 

tivity ; the Psalmists who delight in the study of the 
law are all, or nearly all, much later than David ; and 
the enthusiasm with which the study is praised in- 
creases as we come down. In short, the Jewish nation 
had lost very much when John the Baptist came to 
prepare the way for his Master ; hut time had not 
stood still, nor had that course of education whereby 
the Jew was to be fitted to give the last revelation 
to the world. 

The results of this discipline of the Jewish nation ' 
may be summed up in two points — a settled national 
belief in the unity and spirituality of God, and an 
acknowledgment of the paramount importance of 
chastity as a point of morals. 

The conviction of the unity and spirituality of God 
was peculiar to the Jews among the pioneers of civili- 
zation. Greek philosophers had, no doubt, come to 
the same conclusion by dint of reason. Noble minds 
may often have been enabled to raise themselves to the 
same height in moments of generous emotion. But 
every one knows the difference between an opinion 
and a practical conviction — between a scientific deduc- 
tion or a momentary insight and that habit which 
has become second nature. Every one, also, knows 
the difference between a tenet maintained by a few 
intellectual men far in advance of their asfe, and a 
belief pervading a whole people, penetrating all their 
daily life, leavening all their occupations, incorporated 
into their very language. To the great mass of the 
Gentiles at the time of our Lord, polytheism was the 
natural posture of the thoughts into which their 
minds unconsciously settled when undisturbed by , -7 

doubt or difficulties. To every Jew, without excep- -,- '"^^ - 
tion, monotheism was equally natural. To the Gen- 
tile, even when converted, it was, for some time, still 
an effort to abstain from idols ; to the Jew it was no 
more an effort than it is to us. The bent of the 
Jewish mind was, in fact, so fixed by their previous 

U ^^" 


12 T/ie Education of the World. 

training that it would have required a perpetual and 
difficult strain to enable a Jew to join in such folly. 
A¥e do not readily realize how hard this was to 
acquire, because we have never had to acquire it : and 
in reading the Old Testament we look on the repeated 
idolatries of the chosen people as wilful backslidings 
from an elementary truth within the reach of children, 
rather than as stumblings in learning a very difficult 
lesson — difficult even for cultivated men. In reality, 
elementary truths are the hardest of all to learn, un- 
less we pass our childhood in an atmosj)here 
thoroughly impregnated with them ; and then we 
imbibe them unconsciously, and find it difficult to 
perceive their difficulty. 

It was the fact that this belief was not the tenet of 
the few, but the habit of the nation, which made the 
Jews the proper instruments for communicating the 
doctrine to the world. They supported it, not by 
arguments, which always provoke replies, and rarely, 
at the best, penetrate deeper than the intellect ; but 
by the unconscious evidence of their lives. They 
supplied that spiritual atmosphere in which alone the 
faith of new converts could attain to vigorous life. 
They supplied forms of language and expressions fit 
for immediate and constant use. They supplied devo- 
tions to fill the void which departed idolatry left be- 
hind. The rapid spread of the Primitive Church, 
and the depth to which it struck its roots into the 
decaying society of the Homan Empire, are unques- 
tionably due, to a great extent, to the body of Jewish 
proselytes already established in every important 
city, and to the existence of the Old Testament as a 
ready-made text-book of devotion and instruction. 

Side by side with this freedom from idolatry there 
liad grown up in the Jewish mind a chaster morality 
than was to be found elsewhere in the world. There 
were many points, undoubtedl}^, in which the early 
morality of the Greeks and Eomans would well bear 

Tlie Education of the World. 13 

a comparison with that of the Hebrews. Tn sim- 
-plicit}^ of life, in gentleness of character, in warmth 
of sympathy, in kindness to the poor, in justice to all 
men, the Hebrews could not have rivalled the best '' 
days of Greece. In reverence for law, in reality of obe- 
dience, in calmness under trouble, in dignity of self- 
respect, they could not have rivalled the best daj^s of 
Itome. But the sins of the flesh corrupted both these 
races, and the flower of their finest virtues had 
withered before the time of our Lord. In chastity 
the Hebrews stood alone ; and this virtue, which had 
grown up with them from their earliest days, was 
still in the vigour of fresh life when they were com- 
missioned to give the Gospel to the nations. The 
Hebrew morality has passed into the Christian 
Church, and sins of impurity (which war against the 
soul) have ever since been looked on as the type of 
all evil ; and our Litany selects them as the example 
of deadly sin. "What sort of morality the Gentiles 
would have handed down to us, had they been left 
to themselves, is clear from the Epistles. The excesses 
of the Gentile party at Corinth (i Cor. v. 2), the first 
warning given to the Thessalonians (i Thes. iv. 3), 
the first warning given to the Galatians (Gal. v. 19), 
the description of the Gentile world in the Epistle to 
the Romans, are sufficient indications of the prevail- 
ing Gentile sin. But St. James, writing to the 
Hebrew Christians, says not a word upon the subject, 
and St. Peter barely alludes to it. 

The idea of monotheism and the principle of V 
purity might seem hardly enough to be the chief 
results of so systematic a discipline as that of the 
Hebrews. But, in reality, they are the cardinal points 
in education. The idea of monotheism outtops all 
other ideas in dignity and worth. The spirituality of 
God involves in it the supremacy of conscience, the 
immortality of the soul, the final judgment of the 
human race. For we know the other world, and can 

14 TJie Education of the World. 

only know it, by analogy, drawn from our own expe- 
rience. With, what, then, shall we compare God? 
With the spiritual or the fleshly part of our nature? On 
the answer depends the wliole bent of our religion and 
of our morality. For that in ourselves which we 
choose as the nearest analogy of God, will, of course, 
be looked on as the ruling and lasting part of our 
being. If He be one and spiritual, then the spiritual 
power within us, which proclaims its own unity and 
independence of matter by the universality of its 
decrees, must be the rightful monarch of our lives; but 
if there be Gods many and Lords many, with bodily 
appetites and animal passions, then the voice of con- 
science is but one of those wide-spread delusions 
which, some for a longer, some for a shorter period, 
have, before now, misled our race. Again, the same 
importance which we assign to monotheism as a creed, 
we must assign to chastity as a virtue. Among all 
the vices which it is necessary to subdue in order to 
build up the human character, there is none to be 
compared in strength, or in virulence, with that of 
impurity. It can outlive and kill a thousand virtues ; 
it can corrupt the most generous heart ; it can madden 
the soberest intellect ; it can debase the loftiest imagi- 
nation. But, besides being so poisonous in character, 
it is above all others most difficult to conquer. And 
the people whose extraordinary toughness of nature has 
enabled it to outlive Egyptian Pharaohs, and Assyrian 
kings, and Roman Csesars, and Mussulman caliphs, 
was well matched against a power of evil which has 
battled with the human spirit ever since the creation, 
and has inflicted, and may yet inflict, more deadly 
blows than any other power we know of. 

Such was the training of the Hebrews. Other na- 
tions meanwhile had a training parallel to and con- 
temporaneous with theirs. The natural religions, 
shadows projected by the spiritual light within shining 
on the dark problems without, were aU in reality 

The Education of the World. 1 5 

systems of Law, given also by God, though not given 
by Revelation, but by tlie working of nature, and con- 
sequently so distorted and adulterated that in lapse 
of time the divine element in them had almost 
perished. The poetical gods of Greece, the legendary 
gods of Rome, the animal worship of Egypt, the sun 
worship of the East, all accompanied by systems of 
law and civil government, springing from the same 
sources as themselves, namely, the character and 
temper of the several nations, were the means of 
educating these people to similar purposes in the 
economy of Providence to that for which the Hebrews 
were destined. 

When the seed of the Gospel was first sown, the 
field which had been prepared to receive it may be 
divided into four chief divisions, Rome, Greece, Asia, 
and Judea, Each of these contributed something to 
the growth of the future Church. And the growth 
of the Church is, in this case, the development of the 
human race. It cannot indeed yet be said that all 
humanity has united into one stream ; but the 
Christian nations have so unquestionably taken the 
lead amongst their fellows, that although it is likely 
enough the unconverted peoples may have a real part 
to play, that part must be plainly quite subordinate ; 
subordinate in a sense in which neither Rome, nor 
Greece, nor perhaps even Asia, was subordinate to 

It is not difficult to trace the chief elements of 
civilization which we owe to each of the four. Rome 
contributed her admirable spirit of order and organi- 
zation. To her had been given the genius of govern- 
ment. She had been trained to it by centuries of 
difficult and tumultuous history. Storms which would 
have rent asunder the framework of any other polity 
only practised her in the art of controlling popular 
passions ; and when she began to aim consciously 
at the Empire of the World, she had already learned 

16 The Education of tJie World. 

her lesson. She had learned it as the Hebrews had 
learned theirs, by an enforced obedience to her own 
system. In no nation of antiquity had civil officers 
the same unquestioned authority during their term of 
office, or laws and judicial rules the same reverence. 
That which religion was to the Jew, including even 
the formalism which encrusted and fettered it, law was 
to the Roman. And law was the lesson which Eome 
was intended to teach the world. Hence the Bishop of 
Kome soon became the Head of the Church. Eome 
was, in fact, the centre of the traditions which had 
once governed the world ; and their spirit still re- 
mained ; and the Roman Church developed into the 
papacy simply because a head was wanted, and no 
better one could be found. Hence again in all the 
doctrinal disputes of the fourth and fifth centuries the 
decisive voice came from Rome. Every controversy was 
finally settled by her opinion, because she alone possessed 
the art of framing formulas which could hold together 
in any reasonable measure the endless variety of sen- 
timents and feelings which the Church by that time 
comprised. It was this power of administering law 
which enabled the Western Church, in the time of 
Charlemagne, to undertake, by means of her bishops, the 
task of training and civilizing the new population of 
Europe. To Rome we owe the forms of local govern- 
ment which in England have saved liberty and else- 
where have mitigated despotism. Justinian's laws 
have penetrated into all modern legislation, and almost 
all improvements brhig us only nearer to his cpd». 
Much of the spirit of modern politics came from 
Greece ; much from the woods of Germany. But the 
skeleton and framework is almost entirely Roman. 
And it is not this framework only that comes from 
Rome. The moral sentiments and the moral force 
which lie at the back of all political life and are abso- 
lutely indispensable to its vigour are in great measure 
Roman too. It is true that the life and power of all 

The Education of the JForld. 17 

morality whatever will always be drawn from the New 
Testament ; yet it is in the history of Rome rather 
than in the Bible that we find our models and pre- 
cepts of political duty, and especially of the duty of 
patriotism. St. Paul bids us follow whatsoever things 
are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. But 
except through such general appeals to natural feeling 
it would be difficult to prove from the New Testament 
that cowardice was not only disgraceful but sinful, 
and that love of our country was an exalted duty of 
humanity. That lesson our consciences have learnt 
from the teaching of Ancient Bome. 

To Grreece was entrusted the cultivation of the 
reason and the taste. Her gift to mankind has 
been science and art. There was little in her temper 
of the spirit of reverence. Her morality and her 
religion did not spring from the conscience. Her 
gods were the creatures of imagination, not of spiritual 
need. Her highest idea was, not holiness, as with the 
Hebrews, nor law, as with the Eomans, but beauty. 
Even Aristotle, who assuredly gave way to mere 
sentiment as little as any Grreek that ever lived, 
placed the Beautiful (to koXov) at the head of his moral 
system, not the Eight, nor the Holy. Greece, in fact, 
was not looking at another world, nor even striving 
to organize the present, but rather aiming at the 
development of free nature. The highest possible 
cultivation of the individual, the most finished per- 
fection of the natural faculties, was her dream. It is 
true that her philosophers are ever talking of subordi- 
nating the individual to the state. But in reality 
there never has been a period in history nor a country 
in the world, in which the peculiarities of individual 
temper and character had freer play. This is not the 
best atmosphere for political action ; but it is better 
than any other for giving vigour and life to the im- 
pulses of genius, and for cultivating those faculties, the 
reason and taste, in which the highest genius can be 


18 The Education of the World. 

shown. Such a cultivation needs discipline less than 
any. And of all the nations Greece had the least of 
systematic discipline, least of instinctive deference to 
any one leading idea. But for the same reason the 
cultivation required less time than any other ; and the 
national life of Grreece is the shortest of all. Greek 
history hardly begins before Solon, and it hardly 
continues after Alexander, barely covering 200 years. 
But its fruits are eternal. To the Greeks we owe the 
logic which has ruled the minds of all thinkers since. 
All our natural and physical science really begins 
with the Greeks, and indeed would have been im- 
possible had not Greece taught men how to reason. 
To the Greeks we owe the corrective which conscience 
needs to borrow from nature. Conscience, startled at 
the awful truths which she has to reveal, too often 
threatens to withdraw the soul into gloomy and per- 
verse asceticism : then is needed the beauty which 
Greece taught us to admire, to show us another aspect 
of the Divine Attributes. To the Greeks we owe 
all modern literature. For though there is other 
literature even older than the Greek, the Asiatic for 
instance, and the Hebrew, yet we did not learn this 
lesson from them : they had not the genial life which 
was needed to kindle other nations with the commu- 
nication of their own fire. 

The discipline of Asia was the never-ending succes- 
sion of conquering dynasties, following in each other's 
track like waves, an ever moving yet never advancing 
ocean. Cycles of change were successively passing 
over her, and yet at the end of every cycle she stood 
where she had stood before, and nearly where she stands. 
now. The growth of Europe has dwarfed her in com- 
parison, and she is paralysed in presence of a gigantic 
strength younger but mightier than her own. But in 
herself she is no weaker than she ever was. The 
monarchs who once led Assyrian, or Babylonian, or 
Persian armies across half the world, impose on us by 
the vast extent and rapidity of their conquests ; but 




The Education of the World. 1 9 

these conquests had hi reahty no suhstance, no inherent 
strength. This perpetual baffling of all earthly j^ro- 
gress taught Asia to seek her inspiration in rest. She 
learned to fix her thoughts upon another world, and was 
disciplined to check by her silent protest the over- 
earthly, over-practical tendency of the Western nations. 
She was ever the one to refuse to measure Heaven by the 
standard of earth. Her teeming imagination filled the 
Church with thoughts 'undreamt of in our philosophy.' 
She had been the instrument selected to teach the He- 
brews the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul; for 
whatever may be said of the early notions on this sub- x>f^\ 
ject, it is unquestionable that in Babylon the Jews first (^^^ '"'^ 
attained the clearness and certainty in regard to it which ^'^^^-'^^jlv^^*^ 
we find in the teaching of the Pharisees. So again, ^^^.f^^ 
Athanasius, a thorough Asiatic in sentiment and in 
mode of arguing, was the bulwark of the doctrine of the 
Trinity. The Western nations are always tempted to 
make reason not only supreme, but despotic, and dis- 
like to acknowledge mysteries even in religion. They 
are inclined to confine all doctrines within the limits of 
spiritual utility, and to refuse to listen to dim voices 
and whispers from within, those instincts of doubt, and 
reverence, and awe, which yet are, in their place and 
degree, messages from the depths of our being. Asia 
supplies the corrective by perpetually leaning to the 
mysterious. When left to herself, she settles down to 
baseless dreams, and sometimes to monstrous and re- 
volting fictions. But her influence has never ceased to 
be felt, and could not be lost without serious damage. 
Thus the Hebrews may be said to have disciplined 
the human conscience, Rome the human will, Greece 
the reason and taste, Asia the spiritual imagination. 
Other races that have been since admitted into Chris- 
tendom also did their parts. And others may yet have 
something to contribute ; for though the time for dis- 
cipline is childhood, yet there is no precise line beyond 
which all discipline ceases. Even the grey -haired 

^7\ #1 J I I- 

20 The Education of the World. 

man lias yet some small capacity for learning like a 
child; and even in the maturity of the world the early 
modes of teaching may yet find a place. But the 
childhood of the world was over when our Lord 
appeared on earth. The tutors and governors had 
done their work. It was time that the second teacher 
of the human race should begin his labour. The 
second teacher is Example. 

The child is not insensible to the influence of example. 
Even in the earliest years the manners, the language, 
the principles of the elder begin to mould the character 
of the younger. There are not a few of our acquire- 
ments which we learn by example without any, or with 
very little, direct instruction — as, for instance, to speak 
and to walk. But still example at that age is secondary. 
The child is quite conscious that he is not on such 
an equality with grown-up friends as to enable him to 
do as they do. He imitates, but he knows that it is 
merely play, and he is quite willing to be told that he 
must not do this or that till he is older. As time goes 
on, and the faculties expand, the power of discipline to 
guide the actions and to mould the character decreases, 
and in the same proportion the power of example grows. 
The moral atmosphere must be brutish indeed which 
can do deep harm to a child of four years. But what 
is harmless at four is pernicious at six, and almost fatal 
at twelve. The religious tone of a household will hardly 
make much impression on an infant ; but it will deeply 
engrave its lessons on the heart of a boy growing 
towards manhood. Different faculties within us begin 
to feel the power of this new guide at different times. 
The moral sentiments are perhaps the first to expand 
to the influence ; but gradually the example of those 
among whom the life is cast lays hold of all the soul, — 
of the tastes, of the opinions, of the aims, of the temper. 
As each restraint of discipline is successively cast off*, 
the soul does not gain at first a real, but only an 
aj^iparent freedom. The youth, when too old for dis- 
cipline, is not yet strong enough to guide his life by 

Tlie Education of the World. 21 

fixed principles. He is led by his emotions and 
impulses. He admires and loves, he condemns and 
dislikes, with enthusiasm. And his love and admira- 
tion, his disapproval and dislike, are not his own, but 
borrowed from his society. He can appreciate a 
character, though he cannot yet appreciate a principle. 
He cannot walk by reason and conscience alone ; he 
still needs those ' supplies to the imperfection of our 
nature ' which are given by the higher passions. He 
cannot follow what his heart does not love as well as 
his reason approve ; and he cannot love what is pre- 
sented to him as an abstract rule of life, but requires 
a living person. He needs to see virtue in the concrete, 
before he can recognise her aspect as a divine idea. He 
instinctivel}^ copies those whom he admires, and in doing 
so imbibes whatever gives the colour to their character. 
He repeats opinions without really understanding them, 
and in that way admits their infection into his judg- 
ment. He acquires habits which seem of no conse- 
quence, but which are the channels of a thousand new- 
impulses to his soul. If he reads, he treats the cha- 
racters that he meets with in his book as friends or 
enemies, and so unconsciously allows them to mould 
his soul. When he seems most independent, most 
defiant of external guidance, he is in reality only so 
much the less master of himself, only so much the 
more guided and formed, not indeed by the will, but by 
the example and sympathy of others. 

The power of example probably never ceases during 
life. Even old age is not wholly uninfluenced by 
society ; and a change of companions acts upon the 
character long after the character would appear in- 
capable of further development. The influence, in 
fact, dies out just as it grew; and as it is impossible 
to mark its beginning, so is it to mark its end. The 
child is governed by the will of its parents ; the man by 
principles and habits of his own. But neither is insen- 
sible to the influence of associates, though neither finds 
in that influence the predominant power of his life. 

22 The Education of the World. 

This, then, which is born with our birth and dies 
with our death, attains its maximum at some point in 
the passage from one to the other. And this point is 
just the meeting point of the child and the man, .the 
brief interval which separates restraint from liberty. 
Young men at this period are learning a peculiar lesson. 
They seem to those who talk to them to be imbibing 
from their associates and their studies principles both 
of faith and conduct. But the rapid fluctuations of 
their minds show that their opinions have not really 
the nature of principles. They are really learning, not 
principles, but the materials out of which principles 
are made. They drink in the lessons of generous im- 
pulse, warm unselfishness, courage, self-devotion, 
romantic disregard of worldly calculations, without 
knowing what are the grounds of their own approba- 
tion, or caring to analyse the laws and ascertain the 
limits of such guides of conduct. They believe, 
without exact attention to the evidence of their belief ; 
and their opinions have accordingly the richness and 
w^armth that belong to sentiment, but not the clearness 
or firmness that can be given by reason. These afiec- 
tions, which are now kindled in their hearts by the 
contact of their fellows, will afterwards be the reservoir 
of life and light, with which their faith and their 
highest conceptions will be animated and coloured. 
The opinions now picked up, apparently not really, 
at random, must hereafter give reality to the clearer 
and more settled convictions of mature manhood. If 
it were not for tliese, the ideas and laws afterwards 
supplied by reason would be empty forms of thought, 
without body or substance ; the faith would run a 
risk of being the form of godliness without the power 
thereof. And hence the lessons of this time have such 
an attractiveness in their warmth and life, that they 
are very reluctantly exchanged for the truer and pro- 
founder, but at first sight colder wisdom which is 
destined to follow them. To almost all men this 
period is a bright spot to which the memory ever after- 

The Education of tie World. 23 

wards loves to recur; and even those who can remember 
nothing hut folly — folly too which they have repented 
and relinquished — yet find a nameless charm in recall- 
ing such folly as that. For indeed even folly itself at 
this age is sometimes the cup out of which men quaff 
the richest blessings of our nature — simplicity, gene- 
rosity, affection. This is the seed time of the soul's har- 
vest, and contains the promise of the year. It is the 
time for love and marriasre, the time for formino- life- 
long friendships. The after life may be more contented, 
but can rarely be so glad and joyous. Two things we 
need to crown its blessings — one is, that the friends 
whom we then learn to love, and the opinions which 
we then learn to cherish, may stand the test of time, 
and deserve the esteem and approval of calmer thoughts 
and wider experience ; the other, that our hearts may 
have depth enough to drink largely of that which God is 
holding to our lips, and never again to lose the fire and 
spirit of the draught. There is nothing more beautiful 
than a manhood surrounded by the friends, upholding 
the principles, and filled with the energy of the spring- 
time of life. But even if these hio-hest blessings be 
denied, if we have been compelled to change opinions, 
and to give up friends, and the cold experience of the 
world has extinguished the heat of youth, still the heart 
will instinctively recur to that happy time, to explain 
to itself what is meant by love and what by hap- 

Of course, this is only one side of the picture. 
This keen susceptibility to pleasure and joy implies a 
keen susceptibility to pain. There is, probably, no 
time of life at which pains are more intensel}^ felt ; 
no time at which the wdiole man more ' groaneth and 
travaileth in pain together.' Young men are prone 
to extreme melancholy, even to disgust with life. A 
young preacher will preach upon afflictions much more 
often than an old one. A young poet will write 
more sadly. A young philosopher will moralize more 
gloomily. And this seems unreal sentiment, and is 

24 The Educatio7i of the World. 

smiled at in after years. But it is real at the time ; 
and, perhaps, is nearer the truth at all times than the 
contentedness of those who ridicule it. Youth, in 
fact, feels everything more keenly ; and as far as the 
keenness of feeling contributes to its truth, the feeling, 
Avhether it is pain or pleasure, is so much the truer. 
But in after life it is the happiness, not the suffering 
of youth, that most often returns to the memory, and 
seems to gild all the past. 

The period of ^^outh in the history of the world, 
when the human race was, as it were, put under the 
teaching of example, corresponds, of course, to the 
meeting point of the Law and the Gospel. The 
second stage, therefore, in the education of man was 
the presence of our Lord upon earth. Those few 
years of His divine presence seem, as it were, to 
balance all the systems and creeds and worships which 
preceded, all the Church's life which has followed since. 
Saints had gone before, and saints have been given 
since ; great men and good men had lived among the 
heathen ; there were never, at any time, examples 
wanting to teach either the chosen people or any 
other. But the one Example of all examples came in 
the ' fulness of time,' just when the world was fitted to 
feel the power of His presence. Had His revelation 
been delayed till now, assuredly it would have been 
hard for us to recognise His Divinity ; for the faculty 
of Faith has turned inwards, and cannot now accept 
any outer manifestations of the truth of God. Our 
vision of the Son of God is now aided by the eyes 
of the Apostles, and by that aid we can recognise the 
Express Image of the Father. But in this we are 
like men who are led through unknown woods by 
Indian guides. AYe recognise the indications by 
which the path was known, as soon as those indica- 
tions are pointed out ; but we feel that it would have 
been quite vain for us to look for them unaided. We, 
of course, have, in our turn, counterbalancing advan- 
tages. If we have lost that freshness of faith which 

The Education of the World. 25 

■would be the first to say to a poor carpenter — Thou 
art the Christ, the Son of tlie Living God — yet we 
possess, in the greater cultivation of our religious un- 
derstanding, that which, perhaps, we ought not to be 
willing to give in exchange. The early Christians 
could recognise, more readily than we, the greatness 
and beauty of the Example set before them ; l)ut it is 
not too much to say, that we know better than they 
the precise outlines of the truth. To every age is given 
by (rod its own proper gift. They had not the same 
clearness of understanding as we ; the same recogni- 
tion that it is God and not the devil who rules 
the world ; the same power of discrimination between 
different kinds of truth ; they had not the same calm- 
ness, or fixedness of conduct ; their faith was not so 
quiet, so little tempted to restless vehemence. But 
they had a keenness of perception which we have not, 
and could see the immeasurable difference between 
our Lord and all other men as we could never have 
seen it. Had our Lord come later. He would have 
come to mankind already beginning to stiffen into the 
fixedness of maturity. The power of His life would 
not have sunk so deej)ly into the world's heart ; the 
truth of His Divine Nature would not have been' 
recognised. Seeing the Lord, would not have been 
the title to Apostleship. On the other hand, had our 
Lord come earlier, the world would not have been 
ready to receive Him, and the Gospel, instead of being 
the religion of the human race, would have been the 
religion of the Hebrews only. The other systems 
would have been too strong to be overtlirown by the 
power of preaching. The need of a higher and purer 
teaching would not have been felt. Christ would have 
seemed to the Gentiles the Jewish Messiah, not the 
Son of Man. But He came in the ' fulness of time,' 
for which all history had been preparing, to which all 
history since has been looking back. Hence the first 
and largest place in the New Testament is assigned to 
His Life four times told. This life we emphatically 

26 The Education of the World. 

call the Gospel. If there is little herein to be teclini- 
call}'" called doctrine, yet here is the fountain of all 
inspiration. There is no Christian who would not 
rather part with all the rest of the Bible than with 
these four Books. There is no part of God's Word 
which the religious man more instinctively remembers. 
The Sermon on the Mount, the Parables and the Mira- 
cles, the Last Sapper, the Mount of Olives, the Garden 
of Gethsemane, the Cross on Calvary — these are the 
companions alike of infancy and of old age, simple 
enough to be read with awe and wonder by the one, 
profound enough to open new depths of wisdom to 
the fullest experience of the other. 

Our Lord was the Example of mankind, and there 
can be no other example in the same sense. But the 
whole period from the closing of the Old Testament 
to the close of the New was the period of the world's 
youth — the age of examples ; and our Lord's presence 
was not the only influence of that kind which has 
acted upon the human race. Three companions were 
appointed by Providence to give their society to this 
creature whom God was educating ; Greece, Eome, 
and the Early Church. To these three mankind has 
ever since looked back, and will ever hereafter look 
back with the same affection, the same lingering re- 
gret, with which age looks back to early manhood. In 
these three, mankind remembers the brilliant social 
companion whose wit and fancy sharpened the intel- 
lect and refined the imagination ; the bold and clever 
leader with whom to dare was to do, and whose very 
name was a signal of success; and the earnest, heavenly- 
minded friend, whose saintly aspect was a revelation 
in itself. 

Greece and Bome have not only given to us the 
fruits of their discipline, but the companionship of 
their bloom. The fruits of their discipline would 
have passed into our possession, even if their memory 
had utterly perished ; and just as we know not the 


The Education of the World. 27 

man who first discovered arithmetic, nor the man who 
first invented writing — benefactors with whom no 
other captains of science can ever be compared — so, 
too, it is probable that we inherit from many a race, 
w^hose name we shall never hear aerain, fruits of long: 
tranimg now forgotten. But Greece and Eome have 
given us more than any results of discipline in the 
never-dying memory of their fresh and youthful life. 
It is this, and not only the greatness or the genius of 
the classical writers, which makes their literature pre- 
eminent above all others. There have been great 
poets, great historians, great philosophers in modern 
days. Greece can show few poets equal, none supe- 
rior to Shakspeare. Gibbon, in many respects, stands 
above all ancient historians. Bacon was as great a 
master of philosophy as Aristotle. Nor, again, are 
there wanting great writers of times older, as well as 
of times later, than the Greek, as, for instance, the 
Hebrew prophets. But the classics possess a charm 
quite independent of genius. It is not their genius 
only which makes them attractive. It is the classic 
life, the life of the people of that day. It is the 
image, there only to be seen, of our highest natural 
powers in their freshest vigour. It is the unattain- 
able grace of the prime of manhood. It is the pervad- 
ing sense of youthful beauty. Hence, while we have 
elsewhere great poems and great histories, we never 
find again that universal radiance of fresh life which 
makes even the most commonplace relics of classic 
da3^s models for our highest art. The common work- 
man of those times breathed the atmosphere of the 
gods. What are now the ornaments of our museums 
were then the every-day furniture of sitting and 
sleeping rooms. In the great monuments of their 
literature we can taste this pure inspiration most 
largely; but even the most commonplace fragments 
of a classic writer are steeped in the waters of the 
same fountain. Those who compare the moderns 

28 The Education of the World. 

with the ancients, genius for genius, have no difficulty 
in claiming for the former equality, if not victory. 
But the issue is mistaken. To combine the highest 
powers of intellect with tlie freshness of 3^outh was 
possible only once, and that is the glory of the classic 
nations. The inspiration which is drawn by the man 
from the memory of those whom he loved and 
admired in the spring-time of his life, is drawn by 
the world now from the study of Greece and Eome. 
The world goes back to its youth in hopes to become 
young again, and delights to dwell on the feats 
achieved by the companions of those days. Beneath 
whatever was wrong and foolish it recognises that 
beauty of a fresh nature which never ceases to delight. 
And the sins and vices of that joyous time are passed 
over with the levity with which men think of their 
young companions' follies. 

The Early Church stands as the example which has 
most influenced our religious life, as Greece and Ivome 
have most influenced our political and intellectual life. 
We read the New Testament, not to find there forms 
of devotion, for there are few to be found ; nor laws 
of church government, for there are hardly any ; nor 
creeds, for there are none ; nor doctrines logically 
stated, for there is no attempt at logical precision. 
The New Testament is almost entirely occupied with 
two lives — the life of our Lord, and the life of the 
Early Church. Among the Epistles there are but two 
which seem, even at first sight, to be treatises for the 
future instead of letters for the time — the Epistle to 
the Eomans and the Epistle to the Hebrews. But 
even these, when closely examined, appear, like the 
rest, to be no more than the fruit of the current his- 
tory. That early Church does not give us precepts, 
but an example. She says. Be ye followers of me, as 
I also am of Christ. This had never been said by 
Moses, nor by any of the prophets. But the world 
was now grown old enough to be taught by seeing 

Tlie Education of the World. 29 

the lives of saints, better than by hearing the words 
of prophets. When afterwards Christians needed 
creeds, and liturgies, and forms of church govern- 
ment and systems of theology, they could not find 
them in the New Testament. They found there only 
the materials out of which such needs could be sup- 
plied. But the combination and selection of those 
materials they had to provide for themselves. In 
fact, the work wliich the early Church had to do was 
peculiar. Her circumstances were still more peculiar. 
Had she legislated peremptorily for posterity, her 
legislation must have been set aside, as, indeed, the 
prohibition to eat things strangled and to eat blood 
has been already set aside. But her example will live 
and teach for ever. In her we learn what is meant 
by zeal, what by love of God, what by joy in the 
Holy Ghost, what by endurance for the sake of Christ. 
For the very purpose of giving us a pattern, the chief 
features in her character are, as it were, magnified 
into colossal proportions. Our saints must chiefly be 
the saints of domestic life, the brightness of whose 
light is visible to very few. But their saintliness was 
forced into publicity, and its radiance illumines the 
earth. So on every page of the New Testament is 
written. Go and do thou likewise. Transplant into 
your modern life the same heavenly-mindedness, the 
same fervour of love, the same unshaken faith, the 
same devotion to your fellow-men. And to these 
pages accordingly the Church of our day turns for 
renewal of inspiration. AVe even busy ourselves 
in tracing the details of the early Christian life, and 
we love to find that any practice of ours comes down 
from apostolic times. This is an exaggeration. It is 
not really following the early Church, to be servile 
copyists of her practices. We are not commanded to 
have all things in common, because the church of 
Jerusalem once had ; nor are we to make every supper 
a sacrament, because the early Christians did so. To 

80 The Education of the World. 

copy tlie early Cliurcli is to do as slie did, not what 
she did. Yet the very exaggeration is a testimony 
of the power which that Church has over us. We 
would fain imitate even her outward actions as a step 
towards imitating her inner life. Her outward actions 
were not meant for our model. She, too, had her 
faults : disorders, violent quarrels, licentious reckless- 
ness of opinion in regard both to faith and practice. 
But these spots altogether disappear in the bhize of 
light which streams upon us when we look hack to- 
wards her. Nay, we are impatient of being reminded 
that she had faults at all. So much does her youthful 
holiness surpass all that we can show, that he who 
can see her faults seems necessarily insensible to the 
brightness of her glory. There have been great saints 
since the days of the Apostles. Holiness is as possible 
now as it was then. But the saintliness of that time 
had a peculiar beauty which we cannot copy ; a 
beauty not confined to the apostles or great leaders, 
but pervading the whole Church. It is not what they 
endured, nor the virtues which they practised, which so 
dazzle us. It is the perfect simplicity of the religious 
life, the singleness of heart, the openness, the child- 
like earnestness. All else has been repeated since, 
but this never. And this makes the religious man's 
heart turn back with longing to that blessed time 
when the Lord's service was the highest of all 
delights, and every act of worship came fresh from 
the soul. If we compare degrees of devotion, it may 
be reckoned something intrinsically nobler, to serve 
God and love Him now when religion is colder than 
it was, and when we have not the aid of those thrill- 
ing, heart-stirring sympathies which blessed the early 
Church. But even if our devotion be sometimes 
nobler in itself, yet theirs still remains the more beau- 
tiful, the more attractive. Ours may have its own place 
in the sight of God, but theirs remains the irresistible 
example which kindles all other hearts by its fire. 

The Education of the World. 31 

It is nothing against the drift of this argument, 
that the three friends whose companionship is most 
deeply engraven on the memory of the world were no 
friends one to another. This was the lot of mankind, 
as it is the lot of not a few men, Grreece, the child 
of nature, had come to full maturity so early as to 
pass away before the other two appeared ; and Rome 
and the Early Church disliked each other. Yet that 
dislike makes little impression on us now. "We never 
identify the Rome of our admiration with the Rome 
which persecuted the Christian, partly, indeed, because 
the Rome that we admire was almost gone before the 
church was founded; but partly, too, because we 
forget each of these while we are studying the other, 
"We almost make two persons of Trajan, accordingly 
as we meet with him in sacred or profane history. So 
natural is it to forget in after life the faulty side of 
young friends' characters. 

The susceptibility of youth to the impression of 
society wears off at last. The age of reflection begins. 
From the storehouse of his youthful experience the 
man begins to draw the principles of his life. The 
spirit or conscience comes to full strength and assumes 
the throne intended for him in the soul. As an 
accredited judge, invested with full powers, he sits in 
the tribunal of our inner kingdoin, decides upon the 
past, and legislates upon the future without appeal 
except to himself. He decides not by what is beau- 
tiful, or noble, or soul-inspiring, but by what is right. 
Gradually he frames his code of laws, revising, adding, 
abrogating, as a wider and deeper experience gives 
him clearer light. He is the third great teacher and 
the last. 

Now the education by no means ceases when the 
spirit thus begins to lead the soul ; the office of the 
spirit is in fact to guide us into truth, not to give 
truth. The youth who has settled down to his life's 
work makes a great mistake, if he fancies that be- 

33 The Education of tke World. 

cause he is no more under teachers and governors 
his education is therefore at an end. It is only 
changed in form. He has much, very much, to learn, 
more perhaps than all which he has yet learned ; and 
his new teacher will not give it to him all at once. 
The lesson of life is in this respect like the lessons 
whereby we learn any ordinary business. The bar- 
rister, who has filled his memory with legal forms and 
imbued his mind with their spirit, knows that the 
most valuable part of his education is yet to be 
obtained in attending the courts of law. The physi- 
cian is not content with the theories of the lecture- 
room, nor with the experiments of the laboratory, nor 
ev^en with the attendance at the hospitals; he knows 
that independent practice, when he will be thrown upon 
his own resources, will open his eyes to much which 
at present he sees through a glass darkly. In every 
profession, after the principles are apparently mastered, 
there yet remains much to be learnt from the applica- 
tion of those principles to practice, the only means by 
which we ever understand principles to the bottom. 
So too with the lesson which includes all others, the 
lesson of life. 

In this last stage of his progress a man learns in 
various ways. First he learns unconsciously by the 
growth of his inner powers and the secret but steady 
accumulation of experience. The fire of youth is 
toned down and sobered. The realities of life dissi- 
pate many dreams, clear up many prejudices, soften 
down many roughnesses. The difference between 
intention and action, between anticipating temptation 
and bearing it, between drawing pictures of holiness 
or nobleness and realizing them, between hopes of 
success and reality of achievement, is taught by many a 
painful and many an unexpected experience. In short, 
as the youth puts away childish things, so does the 
man put away youthful things. Secondly, the full- 
grown man learns by reflection. He looks inwards 

Tlie Education of the World. 33 

and not outwards only. He re-arranges the results of 
past experience, re-examines by the test of reality the 
principles supplied to him by books or conversation, 
reduces to intelligible and practical formulas what he 
has hitherto known as vague general rules. He not 
only generalizes — youth will generalize with great 
rapidity and often with great acuteness — but he learns 
to correct one generalization by another. He gra- 
dually learns to disentangle his own thoughts, so as 
not to be led into foolish inconsistency by want of 
clearness of purpose. He learns to distinguish between 
momentary impulses and permanent determinations 
of character. He learns to know the limits of his 
own powers, moral and intellectual ; and by slow 
degrees and with much reluctance he learns to sus- 
pend his judgment and to be content with ignorance 
where knowledge is beyond his reach. He learns to 
know himself and other men, and to distinguish in 
some measure his own peculiarities from the leading 
features of humanity which he shares with all men. 
He learns to know both the worth and the worthless- 
ness of the w^orld's judgment and of his own. Thirdly, 
he learns much by mistakes, both by his own and by 
those of others. He often persists in a wrong cause 
till it is too late to mend what he has done, and he 
learns how to use it and how to bear it. His j)rinciples, 
or what he thought his principles, break down under 
him, and he is forced to analyse them in order to dis- 
cover what amount of truth they really contain. He 
comes upon new and quite unexpected issues of what he 
has done or said, and he has to profit by such warnings 
as he receives. His errors often force him, as it were, 
to go back to school ; not now with the happy docility 
of a child, but with the chastened submission of a peni- 
tent. Or, more often still, his mistakes inflict a sharp 
chastisement which teaches him a new lesson without 
much effort on his own part to learn. Lastly, he learns 
much by contradiction. The coljision of society compels 


34 The Education of the World. 

liim to state liis opinions clearly ; to defend tliem ; to 
modify tliem when indefensible ; perhaps to surrender 
them altogether, consciously or unconsciously ; still 
more often to absorb them into larger and fuller 
thoughts, less forcible but more comprehensive. The 
precision which is thus often forced upon him always 
seems to diminish something of the heartiness and 
power which belonged to more youthful instincts. But 
he gains in directness of aim, and therefore in firmness 
of resolution. But the greatest of his gains is what 
seems a loss : for he learns not to attempt the solution 
of insoluble problems, and to have no opinion at all 
on many points of the deepest interest. Usually this 
takes the form of an abandonment of speculation ; 
but it may rise to the level of a philosophical humi- 
lity which stops where it can advance no further, and 
confesses its own weakness in the presence of the 
mysteries of life. 

But throughout all this it must not be supposed 
that he has no more to do either with that law which 
guided his childhood or with any other law of any 
kind. Since he is still a learner, he must learn on the 
one condition of all learning — obedience to rules ; not 
indeed, blind obedience to rules not understood, but 
obedience to the rules of his own mind — an obedience 
which he cannot throw off without descending below 
the childish level. He is free. But freedom is not 
the opposite of obedience, but of restraint. The free- 
man must obey, and obey as precisely as the bond- 
man ; and if he has not acquired the habit of obedience 
he is not fit to be free. The law in fact which God 
makes the standard of our conduct may have one of 
two forms. It may be an external law, a law which 
is in the hands of others, in the making, in the apply- 
ing, in the enforcing of which we have no share ; a 
law which governs from the outside, compelling our 
will to bow even thouo-h our understandino^ be un- 
convinced and unenlig^itened ; saying you must, and 

The Education of the World. 35". 

making no effort to make you feel that you ouglit ; 
appealing not to your conscience, but to force or fear, 
and caring little whether you willingly agree or 
reluctantly submit. Or, again, the law may be an 
internal law ; a voice which speaks within the con- 
science, and carries the understanding along with it ; 
a law which treats us not as slaves but as friends, 
allowing us to know what our Lord doeth ; a law which 
bids us yield not to blind fear or awe, but to the 
majesty of truth and justice ; a law which is not 
imposed on us by another power, but by our own 
enlightened will. Now the first of these is the law 
which governs and educates the child ; the second the 
law which governs and educates the man. The second 
is in reality the spirit of the first. It commands in 
a different way, but with a tone not one whit less 
peremptory ; and he only who can control all appe- 
tites and passions in obedience to it can reap the full 
harvest of the last and highest education. 

This need of law in tlie full maturity of life is so 
imperative that if the requisite self-control be lost or 
impaired, or have never been sufficiently acquired, the 
man instinctively has recourse to a self-imposed dis- 
cipline if he desire to keep himself from falling. The 
Christian who has fallen into sinful habits often finds 
that he has no resource but to abstain from much that 
is harmless in itself because he has associated it with 
evil. He takes monastic vows because the world has 
proved too much for him. He takes temperance 
pledges because he cannot resist the temptations of 
appetite. There are devils which can be cast out with 
a word ; there are others wdiich go not out but by 
(not pra3^er only, but) fasting. This is often the case 
with the late converted. They are compelled to 
abstain from, and sometimes they are induced to de- 
nounce, many pleasures and many enjoyments which 
they find unsuited to their spiritual health. The 
world and its enjoyments have been to them a source 

D 3 

36 The Education of the U'orld. 

of perpetual temptation, and tliey cannot conceive 
any religions life within such a circle of evil. Some- 
times these men are truly spiritual enough and humble 
enough to recognise that this discipline is not es- 
sential in itself, but only for them and for such as they. 
The discipline is then truly subordinate. It is an 
instrument in the hands of their conscience. They 
know what they are doing and why they do it. But 
sometimes, if they are weak, this discipline assumes 
the shape of a regular external law. They look upon 
many harmless things, from which they have suffered 
mischief as absolutely, not relatively, hurtful. They 
denounce what they cannot share without danger, as 
dangerous, not only for them, but for all mankind, and 
as evil in itself. They set up a conventional code of 
duty founded on their own experience which they 
extend to all men. Even if they are educated enough 
to see that no conventional code is intellectually tenable, 
yet they still maintain their system, and defend it, as 
not necessary in itself, but necessary for sinful men. 
The fact is, that a merciful Providence, in order to 
help such men, puts them back under the dominion of 
the law. They are not aware of it themselves — men 
who are under the dominion of the law rarely are 
aware of it. But even if they could appeal to a reve- 
lation from heaven, they would still be under the 
law ; for a revelation speaking from without and not 
from within is an external law and not a spirit. 

For the same reason a strict and even severe 
discipline is needed for the cure of reprobates. Phi- 
lanthropists complain sometimes that this teaching 
ends only in making the man say, ' the punishment of 
crime is what I cannot bear ;' not, ' the wickedness of 
crime is what I will not do.' But our nature is not 
all will : and the fear of punishment is very often the 
foundation on which we build the hatred of evil. 
No convert would look back with any other feeling 
than deep gratitude on a severity which had set free 

The Education of the World. 37 

his spirit by cliaiuing down his grosser appetites. It 
is true that the teaching of mere discipline, if there 
be no other teacliing, is useless. If you have only 
killed one selfish principle by another you have done 
nothing. But if while thus killing one selfish prin- 
ciple by another you have also succeeded in awaking 
the higher fiiculty and giving it free power of self- 
exertion, 3^ou have done everything. 

This return to the teaching of discipline in mature 
life is needed for the intellect even more than for 
the conduct. There are many men who though they 
pass from the teaching of the outer law to that 
of the inner in regard to their practical life, never 
emerge from the former in regard to their speculative. 
They do not think ; they are contented to let others 
think for them and to accept the results. How far 
the. average of men are from having attained the power 
of free independent thought is shown by the stagger- 
ing and stumbling of their intellects when a compfetely 
new subject of investigation tempts them to form a 
judgment of their own on a matter which they have 
not studied. In such cases a really educated intel- 
lect sees at once that no judgment is yet within its 
reach, and acquiesces in suspense. But the unedu- 
cated intellect hastens to account for the phenomenon; 
to discover new laws of nature, and new relations of 
truth ; to decide, and predict, and perhaps to demand 
a remodelling of all previous knowledge. The dis- 
cussions on table-turning a few years ago, illustrated 
this want of intellects able to govern themselves. 
The whole analogy of physical science was not enough 
to induce that suspension of judgment which was 
effected in a week by the dictum of a known philo- 

There are, however, some men who really think for 
themselves. But even they are sometimes obliged, 
especially if their speculations touch upon practical 
life, to put a temporary restraint upon their intellects. 

33 The 'Education of the World. 

They refuse to speculate at all in directions where tliey 
cannot feel sure of preserving their own balance of 
mind. If the concjlusions at which they seem likely 
to arrive are very strange, or very unlike the general 
analogy of truth, or carry important practical conse- 
quences, they will pause, and turn to some other sub- 
ject, and try whether if they come back with fresh 
minds they still come to the same results. And this 
may go further, and they may find such speculations so 
bewildering and so unsatisfactory, that they finally 
take refuge in a refusal to think any more on the 

4 jDarticular questions. They content themselves with so 
much of truth as they find necessary for their spiritual 
life ; and, though perfectly aware that the wheat may 
be mixed with tares, they despair of rooting up the 
tares with safety to the wheat, and therefore let both 
grow together till the harvest. All this is justifiable 
in the same way that any self-disci]3line is justifiable. 
That is, it is justifiable if really necessary. But as is 
always the case with those who are under the law, such 
men are sometimes tempted to prescribe for others what 
they need for themselves, and to require that no others 
should speculate because they dare not. They not only 
refuse to think, and accept other men's thoughts, 

" which is often quite right, but they elevate those 
into canons of faith for all men, which is not right. 
This blindness is of course wrong ; but in reality it 
is a blindness of the same kind as that with which 
the Hebrews clung to their law ; a blindness, pro- 
vided for them in mercy, to save their intellects from 
leading them into mischief. 

Some men, on the other hand, show their want of 
intellectual self-control by going back, not to the 
dominion of law, but to the still lower level of intel- 
lectual anarchy. They speculate without any founda- 
tion at all. They confound the internal consistency 

• of some dream of their brains with the reality of in- 
dependent truth. They set up theories which have 

TJie Education of the World. 39 

no otlier evidence tliim compatibility with the few facts 
that happen to he known ; and forget that many other 
theories of equal claims might readily be invented. 
They are as little able to be content witli having no 
judgment at all as those who accept judgments at 
second hand. They never practically realize that 
when there is not enough evidence to justify a con- 
clusion, it is wisdom to draw no conclusion. They 
are so eager for light that they will rub their eyes in 
the dark and take the resulting optical delusions for 
real flashes. They need intellectual discipline — but 
they have little chance of getting it, for they have / 

burst its bands. /'•-•' '^ 

There is yet a further relation between the inner *^*" 
law of mature life and the outer law of childhood . ^f 
which must be noticed. And that is, that the outer "f-^u^f^^ 
law is often the best vehicle in which the inner law ^^***> 
can be contained for the various purposes of life. ..^Z-w/' 
The man remembers with affection, and keeps up , , '■'' /^ 

with delight the customs of the home of his child- f.f**?" / 
hood; tempted perhaps to over-estimate their value, 
but even when perfectly aware that they are no more 
than one form out of many which a well-ordered 
household might adopt, preferring them because of 
his long familiarity, and because of the memories with 
which they are associated. So, too, truth often seems to 
him richer and fuller when expressed in some favourite 
phrase of his mother's, or some maxim of his father's. 
He can give no better reason very often for much that 
he does every day of his life than that his father did 
it before him ; and provided the custom is not a 
bad one the reason is valid. And he likes to go to 
the same church. He likes to use the same prayers. 
He likes to keep up the same festivities. There are 
limits to all this. But no man is quite free from the 
influence ; and it is in many cases, perhaps in most, 
an influence of the highest moral value. There is 
great value in the removal of many indifferent matters 

40 The Education of the World. 

out of the region of discussion into that of precedent. 
There is greater vakie still in the link of sympathy 
which binds the present with the past, and fills old 
age with the fresh feelings of childhood. If truth 
sometimes suffers in form, it unquestionably gains 
much in power; and if its onward progress is retarded, 
it gains immeasurably in solidity and in its hold on 
men's hearts. 

Such is the last stage in the education of a human 
soul, and similar (as far as it has yet gone) has been 
the last stage in the education of the human race. 
Of course, so full a comparison cannot be made in this 
instance as was possible in the two which preceded it. 
For we are still within the boundaries of this third 
period, and we cannot yet judge it as a whole. But 
if the Christian Church be taken as the representative 
of mankind it is easy to see that the general law ob- 
servable in the development of the individual may also 
be found in the development of the Church. 

Since the days of the Apostles no further revelation 
has been granted, nor has any other system of religion 
sprung up spontaneously within the limits which the 
Church has covered. No prophets have communi- 
cated messages from Heaven. No infallible insjDira- 
tion has guided any teacher or preacher. The claim 
of infallibility still maintained by a portion of Chris- 
tendom has been entirely given up by the more 
advanced section. The Church, in the fullest sense, 
is left to herself to work out, by her natural faculties, 
the principles of her own action. And whatever 
assistance she is to receive in doing so, is to be through 
those natural faculties, and not in spite of them or 
without them. 

From the very first, the Church commenced the 
task by determining her leading doctrines, and the 
principles of her conduct. These were evolved, as 
principles usually are, partly by reflection on past ex- 
perience, and by formularizing the thoughts embodied 

The Education of the World. 41 

ni the record of the Church of the Apostles, partl}^ by 
perpetual collision with every variety of opinion. 
This career of dogmatism in the Church was, in many 
ways, similar to the hasty generalizations of early 
manhood. The principle on which the controversies 
of those days were conducted is that of giving an 
answer to every imaginable question. It rarely 
seems to occur to the early controversialists that there <^^*- 
are questions which even the Church cannot solve — 
problems which not even revelation has brought within 
the reach of- human faculties. That the decisions J 

were right, on the whole — that is, that they always 
embodied, if they did not always rightly define, the 
truth — is proved by the permanent vitality of the 
Church as compared with the various heretical bodies 
which broke from her. But the flict that so vast a 
number of the early decisions are practically obsolete, 
and that even many of the doctrinal statements are 
plainly unfitted for permanent use, is a proof that the 
Church was not capable, any more than a man is 
capable, of extracting, at once, all the truth and wis- 
dom contained in the teaching of the earlier periods. 
In fact, the Church of the Fathers claimed to do what 
not even the Apostles had claimed — namely, not only 
to teach the truth, but to clothe it in logical state- 
ments, and that not merely as opposed to then pre- 
vailing heresies (which was justifiable), but for all " 
succeeding time. Yet thi^ was, after all, only an 
exaggeration of the proper function of the time. 
Those logical statements were "necessary. And it 
belongs to a later epoch to see 'the law within the law' 
which absorbs such statements into something higher 
than themselves. 

Before this process can be said to have worked itself 
out, it was interrupted by a new phenomenon, demand- 
ing essentially different management. A flood of new 
and undisciplined races poured into Europe, on the one 
hand supplying the Church with the vigour of fresh 

42 The Education of the World. 

life to replace the eifete materials of the old Roman 
Empire, and on the other carrying lier back to the 
childish stage, and necessitating a return to the 
dominion of outer law. The Church instinctively had 
recourse to the only means that would suit the case — 
namely, a revival of Judaism. The Papacy of the 
^ Middle Ages, and the Papal Hierarchy, with all its 
numberless ceremonies and appliances of external 
religion, with its attention fixed upon deeds and not 
on thoughts, or feelings, or purposes, with its precise 
apportionment of punishments and purgatory, was, in 
fact, neither more nor less than the old schoolmaster 
come back to bring some new scholars to Christ. Of 
course, this was not the conscious intention of the then 
' rulers of the Church ; they believed in their own cere- 
monies as much as any of the people at large. The 
return to the dominion of law was instiuctive, not inten- 
tional. But its object is now as evident as the object 
of the ancient Mosaic system. Nothing short of a real 
system of discipline, accepted as Divine by all alike, 
could have tamed the German and Celtish nature into 
the self-control needed for a truly spiritual religion. 
How could Chlovis, at the head of his Pranks, have 
made any right use of absolute freedom of conscience ? 
•Nor was this a case in which the less disciplined race 
could have learned spirituality from the more disci- 
plined. This may happen when the more disciplined 
is much the more vigorous of the two. But the ex- 
hausted Poman Empire had not such strength of life 
left within it. There was no alternative but that all 
alike should be put under the law to learn the lesson 
of obedience. 

When the work was done, men began to discover 
that the law was no longer necessary. And of course 
there was no reason why they should then discuss the 
question whether it ever had been necessary. The 
time was come when it was fit to trust to the conscience 
as the supreme guide, and the yoke of the medieval 

Tlie Education of the World. 43 

discipline wiis shaken off by a controversy wliicli, 
in many respects, was a repetition of that between St. 
Paul and the Judaizers. i3ut, as is always the case 
after a temporary return to the state of discipline, 
Christendom did not go back to the position or the 
duty from which she had been drawn by the influx of 
the barbarian races. The human mind had not stood 
still through the ages of bondage, though its motions 
had been hidden. The Church's whole energy was 
taken up in the first six centuries of her existence in 
the creation of a theology. Since that time it had 
been occupied in renewing by self-discipline the self- 
control which the sudden absorption of the barbarians 
had destroyed. At the Eeformation it might have 
seemed at first as if the study of theology were about 
to return. But in reality an entirely new lesson com- 
menced — the lesson o£ toleration. ) Toleration is the 
very opposite of dogmatism. It implies in reality a 
confession that there are insoluble problems upon 
which even Eevelation throws but little light. Its 
tendency is to modify the early dogmatism by substi- 
tuting the spirit for the letter, and practical religion 
for precise definitions of truth. This lesson is cer- 
tainly not yet fully learnt. Our toleration is at 
present too often timid, too often rash, sometimes 
sacrificing valuable religious elements, sometimes 
fearing its own plainest conclusions. Yet there can 
be no question that it is gaining on the minds of all 
educated men, whether Protestant or Eoman Catholic, 
and is passing from them to be the common property 
of educated and uneducated alike. There are occasions 
when the spiritual anarchy which has necessarily fol- 
lowed the Reformation threatens for a moment to bring 
back some temporary bondage, like the Eoman Catholic 
system. But on the whole the steady progress of tole- 
ration is unmistakeable. The mature mind of our race 
is beginning to modify and soften the hardness and 
severity of the principles which its early manhood had 

44 Tlie Education of the World. 

elevated into immutable statements of truth. Men 
are beginning to take a wider view than they did. 
Physical science, researches into history, a more 
thorough knowledge of the world they inhabit, have 
enlarged our philosoph}'- beyond the limits which 
bounded that of the Church of the Fathers. And all 
these have an influence, whether we will or no, on our 
determinations of religious truth. There are found to 
be more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt 
of in the patristic theology. God's creation is a new 
book to be read by the side of His revelation, and to 
be interpreted as coming from Him. We can acknow- 
5 ledge the great value of the forms in which the first 

^ ages of the Church defined the truth, and yet refuse to 

be bound by them ; we can use them, and yet endeavour 

:- , ' „. to go beyond them, just as they also went beyond the 

^ ! ^.r legacy which was left us by the Apostles. 

^ In learning this new lesson, Christendom needed a 

firm spot on which she might stand, and has found it 

in the Bible. Had the Bible been drawn up in precise 

'At*"' statements of faith, or detailed precepts of conduct, we 

f- should have had no alternative but either permanent 

subjection to an outer law, or loss of the highest in- 
strument of self-education. But the Bible, from its very 
form, is exactly adapted to our present want. It is a 

- history ; even the doctrinal parts of it are cast in a 

historical form, and are best studied by considering 
them as records of the time at which they were written, 
and as conveying to us the highest and greatest 
religious life of that time. Hence we use the Bible — • 
some consciously, some unconsciously — not to over- 
ride, but to evoke the voice of conscience. When 
conscience and the Bible appear to differ, the pious 
Christian immediately concludes that he has not really 
understood the Bible. Hence, too, while the interpre- 
tation of the Bible varies slightly from age to age, it 
varies always in one direction. The schoolmen found 
purgatory in it. Later students found enough to con- 

The Education of the World. 45 

demn Galileo. Not long ago it would have been held 
to condemn geology, and there are still many who so 
interpret it. The current is all one way — it evi- 
dently points to the identification of the Bible with the " 
voice of conscience. The Bible, in fact, is hindered by 
its form from exercising a despotism over the human 
spirit ; if it could do that, it would become an outer 
law at once ; but its form is so admirably adapted to 
our need, that it wins from us all the reverence of a 
supreme authority, and yet imposes on us no yoke of 
sul3Jection. This it does by virtue of the principle of 
private judgment, which puts conscience between us 
and the Bible, making conscience the supreme inter- 
preter, v/hom it may be a duty to enlighten, but whom 
it can never be a duty to disobey. 

This recurrence to the Bible as the great authority 
has been accompanied by a strong inclination, common 
to all Protestant countries, to go back in every detail 
of life to the practices of early times, chiefly, no doubt, 
because such a revival of primitive practices, wherever 
possible, is the greatest help to entering into the very 
essence, and imbibing the spirit of the days when the 
Bible was written. So, too, the observance of the *— -^j=v4i^^ 
Sunday has a stronger hold on the minds of all religious >i*-:> kr^'^j- 
men because it penetrates the whole texture of the 'A<-<^-**^^ \ 
Old Testament. The institution is so admirable, 
indeed so necessary in itself, that without this hold it 
would deserve its present position. But nothing but 
its prominent position in the Bible would have made 
it, what it now is, the one ordinance which all Christen- 
dom alike agrees in keeping. In such an observance 
men feel that they are, so far, living a scriptural life, 
and have come, as it were, a step nearer to the inner 
power of the book from which they expect to learn 
their highest lessons. Some, indeed, treat it as en- 
joined by an absolutely binding decree, and thus at 
once put themselves under a law. But short of that, 
those who defend it only by arguments of Christian 


46 Tlte Education of ill c JJ^orhl. 

expediency, are yet compelled to acknowledge that 
those arguments are so strong that it would be difficult 
to imagine a higher authority for any ceremonial insti- 
tution. And among those arguments one of the fore- 
most is the sympathy which the institution fosters 
between the student of the Bible and the book which 
he studies. 

This tendency to go back to the childhood and 
youth of the world has, of course, retarded the acquisi- 
tion of tliat toleration which is the chief philosophical 
and religious lesson of modern days. Unc[uestionably 
as bigoted a spirit has often been shown in defence of 
some practice for which the sanction of the Bible had 
been claimed, as before the Reformation in defence of 
the decrees of the Church. But no lesson is well 
learned all at once. To learn toleration well and really, 
to let it become, not a philosophical tenet but a prac- 
tical principle, to join it with real religiousness of life 
and character, it is absolutely necessary that it should 
break in upon the mind by slow and steady degrees, 
and that at every point its right to go further should 
be disputed, and so forced to logical proof. For it is 
only by virtue of the opposition which it has sur- 
mounted that any truth can stand in the human mind. 
The strongest argument in favour of tolerating all 
opinions is that our conviction of the truth of an 
opinion is worthless unless it has established itself in 
p^ ^V spite of tUe^iost strenuousj:esistance, and is still pre- 
\ •^v"^ Spared to overcome tlie same resistance, if necessary. 
'r,v-*X,''j^t xlToleration itself is no exception to the universal law; 
^'^^^^^^^^.j^ and those who must regret the slow progress by which 
"^C^^ >/\^ '' ^ it wins its way, may remember that this slowness 
r^^'^ makes the final victory the more certain and complete. 

Nor is that all. The toleration thus obtained is 
diHerent in kind from what it would otherwise have 
been. It is not only stronger, it is richer and 
fuller. For the slowness of its progress gives time 
to disentangle from dogmatism the really valuable 

The Education of the World. 47 

principles and sentiments which have been mixed up 
and entwined in it, and to unite toleration, not with 
indifference and worldliness, but with spiritual truth 
and religiousness of life. 

Even the perverted use of tlie Bible has therefore 
not been without certain great advantages. And 
meanwhile how utterly impossible it would be in the 
manhood of the world to imagine any other instructor 
of mankind. And for that reason, every day makes 
it more and more evident that the thorough study of • 
the Bible, the investigation of what it teaches and 
what it does not teach, the determination of the 
limits of what we mean by its inspiration, the de- 
termination of the degree of authority to be ascribed 
to the different books, if any degrees are to be ad- 
mitted, must take the lead of all other studies. He 
is guilty of high treason against the faith who fears 
the result of any investigation, whether philosophical, 
or scientific, or historical. And therefore nothing; 
should be more welcome than the extension of know- 
ledge of any and every kind — for every increase in 
our accumulations of knowledge throws fresh light 
upon these the real problems of our day. If geology "^ 
proves to us that we must not interpret the first 
chapters of Grenesis literally ; if historical investiga- ^^ 
tions shall show us that inspiration, however it may 
protect the doctrine, yet was not empowered to pro- 
tect the narrative of the inspired writers from occa- 
sional inaccuracy ; if careful criticism shall prove that 
there have been occasionally interpolations and forgeries 
in that Book, as in many others ; the results should - 
still be welcome. Even the mistakes of careful and 
reverent students are more valuable now than truth 
held in unthinking acquiescence. The substance of 
the teaching which we derive from the Bible will 
not really be affected by anything of this sort. While 
its hold upon the minds of believers, and its power to 
stir the depths of the spirit of man, however much 

48 The Education of the World. 

weakened at first, must be immeasurabl}^ strengthened 
in tlie end, by clearing away any blunders which may 
have been fastened on it by human interpretation. 

The immediate work of our day is the study of the 
Bible. Other studies will act upon the progress of 
mankind by acting through and upon this. For 
while a few highly educated men here and there who 
have given their minds to special pursuits may think 
the study of the Bible a thing of the past, yet 
assuredly, if their science is to have its effect upon 
men in the mass, it must be by affecting their moral 
and religious convictions — in no other way have men 
been, or can men be, deeply and permanently changed. 
But though this study must be for the present and 
for some time the centre of all studies, there is mean- 
vdiile no study of whatever kind which will not have 
its share in the general effect. At this time, in the 
maturity of mankind, as with each man in the matu- 
rity of his powers, the great lever which moves the 
world is knowledge, the great force is the intellect. 
St. Paul has told us ' that though in malice we must 
be children, in understanding we ought to be men.' 
And this saying of his has the widest range. Not 
only in the understanding of religious truth, but in 
all exercise of the intellectual powers, we have no 
right to stop short of any limit but that which 
nature, that is, the decree of the Creator, has imposed 
on us. In fact, no knowledge can be without its 
effect on religious convictions ; for if not capable of 
throwing direct light on some spiritual questions, yet 
in its acquisition knowledge invariably throws light 
on the process by which it is to be, or has been, 
acquired, and thus affects all other knowledge of every 

If we have made mistakes, careful study may teach 
us better. If we have quarrelled about words, the 
enlightenment of the understanding is the best means 
to show us our folly. If we have vainly puzzled our 

The Education of the World. 49 

intellects with subjects beyond human cognizance, 
better knowledge of ourselves will help us to be 
humbler. Life, indeed, is higher than all else ; and 
no service that man can render to his fellows is to be 
compared with the heavenly power of a life of holi- 
ness. But next to that must be ranked, whatever 
tends to make men think clearly and judge correctly. 
So valuable, even above all things (excepting only god- 
liness), is clear thought, that the labours of the states- 
man are far below those of the philosopher in duration, 
in power, and in beneficial results. Thought is now 
higher than action, unless action be inspired with the 
very breath of heaven. For we are now men, governed 
by principles, if governed at all, and cannot rely an}^ 
longer on the impulses of youth or the discipline of 

'f[\t^ I 


WHEN geologists began to ask whether changes 
in the earth's structure might be explained by 
causes still in operation, they did not disprove the 
possibility of great convulsions, but they lessened the 
necessity for imagining them. So, if a theologian 
has his eyes opened to the Divine energy as continuous 
and omnipresent, he lessens the sharp contrast of 
epochs in Eevelation, but need not assume that the 
stream has never varied in its flow. Devotion raises 
time present into the sacredness of the past ; while 
Criticism reduces the strangeness of the past into 
harmony with the present. Faith and Prayer (and 
great marvels answering to them) do not pass away : 
but, in prolonging their range as a whole, we make 
their parts less exceptional. We hardly discern the 
truth, ibr which they are anxious, until we distinguish 
«it from associations accidental to their domain. The 
truth itself may have been apprehended in various 
degrees by servants of God, of old, as now. Instead 
of, with Tertullian, what icas first is truest, we may say, 
what comes of God is true, and He is not only afar, 
but nigh at hand ; though His mind is not changed. 

Questions of miraculous interference do not turn 
merely upon our conceptions of phj^sical law, as un- 
broken, or of the Divine Will, as all-pervading : but 
they include inquiries into evidence, and must abide 
by verdicts on the age of records. Nor should the 
distinction between poetry and prose, and the possi- 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 51 

bility of imagination's allying itself with affection, 
be overlooked. We cannot encourage a remorseless 
criticism of Gentile histories and escape its contagion 
when we approach Hebrew annals ; nor acknowledge 
a Providence in Jewry witliout owning that it may 
have comprehended sanctities elsewhere. But the 
moment we examine fairly the religions of India and of 
Arabia, or even those of primeval Hellas and Latium, 
we find they appealed to the better side of our nature 
and their essential strength lay in the elements of 
good which they contained, rather than in any satanic 

Thus considerations, religious and moral, no less 
than scientific and critical, have, where discussion was 
free, widened theidea of Revelation for the old world, and 
deepened it for ourselves ; not removing the footsteps 
of the Eternal from Palestine, but tracing them on 
other shores; and not making the saints of old orphans, 
but ourselves partakers of their sonship. Conscience 
would not lose by exchanging that repressive idea of 
revelation, which is put over against it as an adversary, 
for one to which the echo of its best instincts should 
be the witness. The moral constituents of our nature, 
so often contrasted with Revelation, should rather be 
considered parts of its instrumentality. Those cases 
in which we accept the miracle for the sake of the 
moral lesson prove the ethical element to be the more 
fundamental. We see this more clearly if we imagine 
a miracle of cruelty wrought (as by Antichrist) for 
immoral ends \ for tlien only the technically mira- 
culous has its value isolated ; whereas by appealing to 
yoo^-/ 'works' (however wonderful) for his witness, Christ 
has taught us to have faith mainly in goodness. This 
is too much overlooked by some apologists. But there 
is hardly any greater question than whether history 
shows Almighty God to have trained mankind by a 
faith which has reason and conscience for its kindred, 
or by one to whose miraculous tests their pride must 

E % 

52 Bunsens Biblical BesearcJies. 

bow ; that is, whether His Holy Spirit has acted 
through the channels wliich His Providence ordained, 
or whether it has departed from these so signally 
that comparative mistrust of them ever afterwards 
becomes a duty. The first alternative, though in- 
vidiously termed philosophical, is that to which free 
nations and Evangelical thinkers tend; the second has 
a greater show of religion, but allies itself naturally 
with priestcraft or formalism ; and not rarely with 
corruptness of administration or of life. 

In this issue converge many questions anciently 
stirred, but recurring in our daylight with almost 
uniform^ accession of strengtli to the liberal side. 
Such questions turn cliiefly on the law of growth, 
traceable throughout the Bible, as in the world ; and 
partly on science, or historical inquiry: but no less on 
the deeper revelations of the New Testament, as com- 
pared to those of the Old. If we are to retain the 
old Anglican foundations of research and fair state- 
ment, we must revise some of the decisions provi- 
sionally given upon imperfect evidence ; or, if we 
shrink from doing so, we must abdicate our ancient 
claim to build upon the truth ; and, our retreat will 
be either to Eome, as some of our lost ones have 
consistently seen, or to some form, equally evil, of 
darkness voluntary. The attitude of too many Eng- 
lish scholars before the last Monster out of the Deep 
is that of the degenerate senators before Tiberius. 
They stand, balancing terror against mutual shame. 
Even with those in our universities who no longer re- 

' It is very remarkable that, amidst all our Biblical illustration from 
recent travellers, Layard, Eawlinson, Robinson, Stanley, &c., no single 
point has been discovered to tell in favour of an irrational supernaturalism; 
whereas numerous discoveries have confirmed the more liberal (not to say, 
rationalizing) criticism which traces Eevelation historicallj' within the 
sphere of nature and humanity. Such is the moral, both of the Assyrian 
discoveries, and ot all travels in the East, as well as the verdict of philologers 
at home. Mr. G. Eawlinson's proof of this is stronger, because undesigned. 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 53^ 

peat fully tlie required Sliibboletlis, tlie explicitness of 
truth is rare. He who assents most, committing him- 
self least to baseness, is reckoned wisest. 

Bunsen's enduring glory is neither to have paltered 
with his conscience nor shrunk from the difficulties 
of the problem ; but to have brought a vast erudition, 
in the lio-ht of a Christian conscience, to unroll 
tangled records, tracing frankly the Spirit of God 
elsewhere, but honouring chiell}' the traditions of His 
Hebrew sanctuary. No living author's works could 
furnish so pregnant a text for a discourse on Biblical 
criticism. Passing over some specialities of Lutheran- 
ism, we may meet in the field of research which is 
common to scholars ; while even here, the sympathy, 
which justifies respectful exposition, need not imply 
entire agreement. 

In the great work upon Egypt, ^ the later volumes 
of which are now appearing in English, we do not 
find that picture of home life which meets us in the 
pages of our countryman, Sir G. Wilkinson. The 
interest for robust scholars is not less, in the fruitful 
comparison of the oldest traditions of our race, and in 
the giant shapes of ancient empires, which flit like 
dim shadows, evoked by a master's hand. But for 
those who seek chiefly results, there is something weari- 
some in the elaborate discussion of authorities ; and, it 
must be confessed, the German refinement of method 
has all the effect of confusion. To g-ive details here 
is impossible (though the more any one scrutinizes 
them, the more substantial he will find them), and 
this sketch must combine suggestions, which the 
author has scattered strangely apart, and sometimes 
repeated without perfect consistency. He dwells largely 
upon Herodotus, Eratosthenes, and their successors, 
from ChampoUion and Young to Lepsius. Especially 

' Egypt's Place in Universal History, by Christian C. J. Bunsen, &c. 
Loudon, 1848, vol. i. 1854, vol. ii. 

54 Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 

the dynastic records of the Ptolemaic priest, Manetho/ 
are compared with the accounts of the stone monu- 
ments. The result, if we can receive it, is to vindicate 
for the civilized kingdom of Egypt, from Menes down- 
ward, an antiquity of nearly four thousand years before 
Christ. There is no point in which archaeologists of all 
shades were so nearly unanimous as in the belief that 
our Biblical chronology was too narrow in its limits ; 
and the enlargement of our views, deduced from 
Egyptian records, is extended by our author's reason- 
ings on the development of commerce and government, 
and still more of languages, and physical features of 
race. He coukl not have vindicated the unity of 
mankind if he had not asked for a vast ex,tension of 
time, whether his petition of twenty tliousand ^^ears 
be granted or not. The mention of such a term may 
appear monstrous to those who regard six thousand 
years as a part of Revelation. Yet it is easier to throw 
doubt on some of the arguments than to show that 
the conclusion in favour of a vast length is impro- 
bable. If pottery in a river's mud proves little, its 
tendency may agree witli that of the discovery of very 
ancient pre-historic remains in many parts of the 
world. Again, how many years are needed to de- 
velope modern French out of Latin, and Latin itself 
out of its original crude forms ? How unlike is 
English to Welsh, and Greek to Sanskrit— yet all 
indubitably of one family of languages ! What years 
were required to create the existing divergence of 
members of this family ! How many more for other 

' See an account of him, and his tables, in the Byzantine Syncellus, pp. 
72-T45, vol. i., ed. Dind., in the Corpus Historice Bj/zantince, Bonn. 1829. 
But with this is to be compared the Armenian version of Eusebius's Chro- 
nology, discovered by Cardinal Mai. The text, the interpretation, and the 
historical fidelity, are all controverted. Baron Bunsen's treatment of them 
deserves the provisional acceptance due to elaborate research, with no slight 
concurrence of probabilities ; and ii' it should not ultimately win a favour- 
able verdict from Egyptologers, no one who summarily rejects it us 
arbitrary or impossible can have aright to be on the jury. 

Btinsens Biblical Besearches. 55 

families, separated by a wide gulf from this, yet retain- 
ing traces of a primeval aboriginal affinity, to have 
developed themselves, either in priority or colhxte- 
rally ! The same consonantal roots, appearing either 
as verbs inflected witli great variety of gram- 
matical form, or as nouns with case-endings in some 
languages, and with none in others, plead as con- 
vincingly as the succession of strata in geology, for 
enormous lapses of time. When, again, we have 
traced our Gaelic and our Sanskrit to their inferential 
pre-Hellenic stem, and when reason has convinced 
us that the Semitic languages which had as distinct 
an individuality four thousand years ago as they 
have now, require a cradle of larger dimensions 
than Archbishop Ussher's chronology, what farther 
effort is not forced upon our imagination, if we 
would guess the measure of the dim background in 
which the Mongolian and Egyptian languages, older 
probably than the Hebrew, became fixed, growing 
early into the tyj)e which they retain ? Do we see 
an historical area of nations and languages extending 
itself over nearly ten thousand years : and can we 
imagine less than another ten thousand, during which 
the possibilities of these things took body and form ? 
Questions of this kind require from most of us a 
special training for each : but Baron Bunsen revels 
in them, and his theories are at least suggestive. 
He shows what Egypt had in common with that 
primeval Asiatic stock, represented by Ham, out of 
which, as raw material, he conceives the divergent 
families, termed Indo-European' and Semitic (or the 
kindreds of Europe and of Palestine), to have been 

' The common tei'ui was Indo-Germanic. Dr. Pricliard, on bringing the 
Gael and Cymry into the same family, required the wider term Indo- 
European. Historical reasons, chiefly in connexion with Sanskrit, are 
bringing the term Aryan (or Aryas) into fashion. We may adopt which- 
ever is intelligible, without excluding, perhaps, a Turanian or African 
element surviving in South Wales. Turanian means nearly Mongolian. 

56 Bunsetis Biblical JRcscarcJias. 

later developed. Ninirod is considered as the Biblical 
representative of the earlier stock, whose ruder 
lano'iiag-e is continued, by affiliation or by analogy, 
in the jNIongolian races of Asia and in the negroes 
of Africa. 

The traditions of Babylon, Sidon, Assyria, and Iran, 
are brought b}' our author to illustrate and confirm, 
I though to modify, our interpretation of Genesis. It 
is strange how nearly those ancient cosmogonies^ 
approach what may be termed the philosophy of 
Moses, while they fall short in what Longinus called 
his ' worthy conception of the divinity.' Our deluge 
takes its place among geological phenomena, no longer 
a disturbance of law from which science shrinks, but 
a prolonged play of the forces of fire and water, ren- 
dering the primeval regions of North Asia uninha- 
bitable, and urging the nations to new abodes. We 
learn approximately its antiquity, and infer limitation 
in its range, from hnding it recorded in the traditions 
of Iran and Palestine (or of Japhet and Shem), but 
unknown to the Egyptians and Mongolians, who left 
earlier the cradle of mankind. In the half ideal half 
traditional notices" of the beginnings of our race, 
compiled in Genesis, we are bid notice the combination 
of documents, and the recurrence of barely consistent 
genealogies. As the man Adam begets Cain, the 
man Enos begets Cainan. Jared and Irad, Methu- 
selah and Methusael, are similarly compared. Seth, 
like El, is an old deity's appellation, and Man was 
the son of Seth in one record, as Adam was the son 
of God in the other. One could wish the puzzling 
circumstance, that the etymology of some of the earlier 
names seems strained to suit the present form of the 
narrative had been explained. That our author would 

'^ Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschiehte, pp. 186-400 ; B. v. 1-3, 
Gotha. 1856. 

- ^e(/_j'/'^e«'s iSieZ^e, &c., B. V. 4, 5, pp. 50-142. Gotha. 1857. 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 57 

not slirink from noticing this, is shown by the firmness 
with which he relegates the long lives of the first 
patriarchs to the domain of legend, or of sj'mbolical 
cjcle. He reasonably conceives that the historical 
portion begins with Abraham, where the lives be- 
come natural, and information was nearer. A scepti- 
cal criticism might, indeed, ask, by what right he 
assumes that the moral dimensions of our spiritual 
heroes can not have been idealized by tradition, as he 
admits to have been the case with physical events 
and with chronology rounded into epical shape. But 
the first principles of his philosophy, which fixes on 
personality (or what we might call force of character) 
as the great organ of DiWne manife.station in the 
world, and his entire method of handling the Bible, 
lead him to insist on the genuineness, and to magnify 
the force, of spiritual ideas, and of the men who exem- 
plified them. Hence on the side of religion, he does 
not intentionally violate that reverence with which 
Evangelical thinkers view the fathers of our faith. 
To Abraham and Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, he 
renders grateful honour. Even in archaeology his 
scepticism does not outrun the suspicions often be- 
trayed in our popular mind ; and he limits, while he 
confirms these, by showing how far they have ground. 
But as he says, with quaint strength, ' there is no 
chronological element in Eevelation.' Without bor- 
rowing the fifteen centuries which the Grreek Church 
and the Septuagint would lend us, we see, from com- 
paring the Bible with the Egyptian records and with 
itself, that our common dates are wronsr, thousrh it is 
not so easy to say how they should be rectified. The 
idea of bringing Abraham into Egypt as early as 2876 
B.C. is one of our author's most doubtful points, and 
may seem hardly tenable. But he wanted time for 
the growth of Jacob's famil}' into a people of two 
millions, and he felt bound to place Joseph under 
a native Pharaoh, therefore, before the Shepherd 

58 Bunsens Biblical Researches. 

Kings. He also contends that Abraham's horizon in 
Asia is antecedent to the first Median conquest of 
Babylon in 2234. A famine, conveniently mentioned 
under the twelfth dynasty of Egypt, completes his 
proof. Sesortosis, therefore, is the Pharaoh to whom 
Joseph was minister ; the stay of the Israelites in 
Egypt is extended to fourteen centuries ; and the date 
215 represents the time of oppression. Some of these 
details are sufiiciently doubtful to afford ground of 
attack to writers whose real quarrel is with our author's 
Biblical research, and its more certain, but not therefore 
more welcome, conclusions. It is easier to follow him 
implicitly when he leads us, in virtue of an overwhelm- 
ing concurrence of Egyptian records, and of all the 
probabilities of the case, to place the Exodus as late as 
1320 or 1 3 14. The event is more natural in Egypt's 
decline under Menephthah, the exiled son of the great 
Eamses, than amidst the splendour of the eighteenth 
dynasty. It cannot well have been earlier, or the 
Book of Judges must have mentioned the conquest of 
Canaan by Bamses ; nor later, for then Joshua would 
come in collision with the new empire of Ninus and 
Semiramis. But Manetho places, under Menephthah, 
what seems the Egyptian version of the event, and the 
year 1314, one of our alternatives, is the date assigned 
it by Jewish tradition. Not only is the historical 
reality of the Exodus thus vindicated against thei 
dreams of the Drummonds and the Volneys, but a 
new interest is given it by its connexion with the rise 
and fall of great empires. We can understand how 
the ruin on which Ninus rose made room in Canaan 
for the Israelites, and how they I'ell again under the 
satraps of the New Empire, who appear in the Book 
of Judges as kings of the provinces. Only, if we 
accept the confirmation, we must take all its parts. 
Manetho makes tlie conquerors before whom Meneph- 
thah retreats into Ethiopia Syrian shepherds, and 
gives the human side of an invasion, or war of libera- 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 59 

tioii ;^ Baron Bunsen notices the ' liigli hand ' with 
which Jehovah led forth his people, the spoiling of the 
Egyptians, and the lingering in the peninsula, as 
signs, even in the Bible, of a struggle conducted b}^ 
human means. Thus, as the pestilence of the Book 
of Kings becomes in Chronicles the more visible angel, 
so the avenger who slew the firstborn may have been 
the Bedouin host, akin nearly to Jethro, and more 
remotely to Israel. 

So in the passage of the Eed Sea, the description 
may be interpreted with the latitude of poetry: though 
as it is not affirmed that Pharaoh was drowned, it is 
no serious objection that Egyptian authorities continue 
the reign of Menephthah later. A greater difficulty is 
that we find but three centuries thus left us from the 
Exodus to Solomon's Temple. Yet less stress will be 
laid on this by whoever notices how the numbers in the 
Book of Judges proceed by the eastern round number 
of forty, what traces the whole book bears of embody- 
ing history in its most popular form, and how naturally 
St. Paul or St. Stephen would speak after received 

It is not the importance severally, but the continual 
recurrence of such difficulties, which bears with ever- 
grov/ing induction upon the question, whether the 
Pentateuch is of one age and hand, and whether sub- 
gequent books are contemporary with the events, or 
whether the whole literature grew like a tree rooted 
in the varying thoughts of successive generations, and 
whether traces of editorship, if not of composition, 
between the ag-es of Solomon and Hezekiah, are mani- 
fest to whoever will recognise them. Baron Bunsen 

^ vofiov idero firjre TvpotTiivvelv Qeovs .... (TVudTrreaoai oe firjoevi 
ttKtjv ra>v a-vvuniorr fievcuV avros 8i .... ene/JLyj^e Ttpicr^fis 
TTpos Tovs VTTO l!idjxihai(i)i aTviKiiOiVTas TToifievas . . . . Ka\ ^^lov 
a-vveTria-Tpareveiv k.t.X. Manetho, apud Jos. c. Apioii. The vvhule 
passage has the stamp of genuine history. 

60 Btinsens Biblical RescarcJies. 

finds himself compelled to adopt the alternative of 
gradual growth. He makes the Pentateuch Mosaic, 
as indicating the mind and embodying the developed 
system of Moses, rather than as written by the great 
lawgiver's hand. Numerous fragments of genealogy, 
of chronicle, and of spiritual song go up to a high 
antiquity, but are embedded in a crust of later narra- 
tive, the allusions of which betray at least a time 
when kings were established in Israel. Hence the 
idea of composition out of older materials must be 
admitted; and it may in some cases be conceived that 
the compiler's point of view differed from that of the 
older pieces, which yet he faithfully preserved. If the 
more any one scrutinizes the sacred text, the more he 
finds himself impelled to these or like conclusions 
respecting it, the accident of such having been alleged 
by men more critical than devout should not make 
Christians shrink from them. We need not fear that 
what God has permitted to be true in history can be 
at war with the faith in Himself taught us by His 

As in his Ef/i/pt our author sifts the historical date 
of the Bible, so in his Gott in der Geschiclite,^ he 
expounds its directly religious element. Lamenting, 
like Pascal, the wretchedness of our feverish being, 
when estranged from its eternal stay, he traces, as a 
countryman of Hegel, the Divine thought bringing 
order out of confusion. Unlike the despairing school, 
who forbid us trust in God or in conscience, unless we 
kill our souls with literalism, he finds salvation for 
men and States only in becomhig acquainted with the 
Author of our life, by whose reason the world stands 
fast, whose stamp we bear in our forethought, and 
whose voice our conscience echoes. In the Bible, as 
an expression of devout reason, and therefore to be 

1 Gott in der Gescldclite (i.e. the Divine Government in History). 
Books i. and ii. Leipzig. 1857. 

Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 61 

read with reason in freedom, he finds record of the 
spiritual giants whose experience generated the reli- 
gious atmosphere we breathe. For, as in law and 
literature, so in religion we are debtors to our ances- 
tors ; but their life must find in us a kindred appre- 
hension, else it would not quicken ; and we must give 
back what we have received, or perish by unfaithful- 
ness to our trust. Abraham the friend of Grod, Moses 
the inspired patriot, Elijah the preacher of the still 
small voice, and Jeremiah the foreseer of a law written 
on the conscience, are not ancestors of Pharisees who 
inherit their flesh and name, so much as of kindred 
spirits who put trust in a righteous God above offer- 
ings of blood, who build up free nations by wisdom, 
who speak truth in simplicity though four hundred 
priests cry out for falsehood, and who make self-exa- 
mination before the Searcher of hearts more sacred 
than the confessional. When the fierce ritual of Syria, 
with the awe of a Divine voice, bade Abraham slay his 
son, he did not reflect that he had no perfect theory of 
the absolute to justify him in departing from tradi- 
tional revelation, but trusted that the Father, whose 
voice from heaven he heard at heart, was better pleased 
with mercy than with sacrifice ; and this trust was his 
righteousness. Its seed was sown from heaven, but 
it grew in the soil of an honest and good heart. So 
in each case we trace principles of reason and right, to 
which our heart perpetually responds, and our response 
to which is a truer sign of faith than such deference 
to a supposed external authority as would quench 
these principles themselves. 

It may be thought that Baron Bunsen ignores too 
peremptorily the sacerdotal element in the Bible, for- 
getting how it moulded the form of the history. He 
certainly separates the Mosaic institutions from 
Egyptian affinity more tlian our Sj)encer and War- 
burton would permit ; more, it seems, than Hengsten- 
berg considers necessary. But the distinctively Mosaic 

62 Bunsens Biblical Researches. 

is with him, not the ritual, but the spiritual, which 
generated the other, hut was overlaid by it. Moses, 
he thinks, would gladly have founded a free religious 
society, in which the primitive tables written by the 
Divine finger on man's heart should have been law ; 
but the rudeness or hardness of his people's heart 
compelled him to a sacerdotal system and formal 
tablets of stone. In favour of this view, it may be 
remarked, that the tone of some passages in Exodus 
appears less sacerdotal than that of later books in the 
Pentateuch. But, be this as it may, the truly Mosaic 
(according to our author) is not the Judaic, but the 
essentially human; and it is not the Semitic form, 
often divergent from our modes of conception, but the 
eternal truths of a rigliteous Grod, and of the spiritual 
sacrifices with which He is pleased, that we ought to 
recognise as most characteristic of the Bible ; and 
these truths the same Spirit which spoke of old 
speaks, through all variety of phrase, in ourselves. 

That there was a Bible before our Bible, and that 
some of our present books, as certainl}^ Genesis and 
Joshua, and perhaps Job, Jonah, Daniel, are expanded 
from simpler elements, is indicated in the book before 
us rather than proved as it might be. Fuller details 
may be expected in the course of the revised Bible 
Jor the Beople^ that grand enterprise of which three 
parts have now appeared. So far as it has gone, 
some amended renderings have interest, but are 
less important than the survey of the whole sub- 
ject in the Introduction. The word Jehovah has 
its deep significance brought out by being rendered 
The Eternal. The famous Sliiloh (Gen. xlix. lo) is 
taken in its localsense,as the sanctuar}^ where the young- 
Samuel was trained ; which, if doctrinal perversions 
did not interfere, hardly any one would doubt to be 
the true sense. The three opening verses of Genesis 

' Bihel-tcerkfilr die Gemeinde. I. and II. Leipzig. 1858. 

Bunsens Biblical Besearclies. 63 

are treated as szVe-clauses {icken Grod created, &c.), so 
that the first direct utterance of the Bible is in the 
fourth verse, ' God said, Let there be light.' Striking 
as this is, the Hebrew permits, rather than requires it. 
Less admissible is the division after verse 4 of the 2nd 
chapter, as if ' This is the history' was a summary 
of what precedes, instead of an announcement of what 
follows. But the first three verses of the 2nd chapter 
belong properly to the preceding. Sometimes the 
translator seems right in substance but wrong in 
detail. He rightly rejects the perversions which make 
the cursing Psalms evangelically inspired ; but he 
forgets that the bitterest curses of Psalm 109 (from 
verse 6 to 19) are not the Psalmist's own, but a speech 
in the mouth of his adversary, as the change of 
number shows. These are trifles, when compared 
with the mass of information, and the manner of 
wielding it, in the prefaces to the work. There is a 
grasp of materials and a breadth of view from which 
the most practised theologian may learn something, 
and persons least versed in Biblical studies acquire a 
comprehensive idea of them. Nothing can be more 
dishonest than the affectation of contempt with 
which some English critics endeavoured to receive 
this instalment of a glorious work. To sneer at 
demonstrated criticisms as ' old,' and to brand fresh 
discoveries as ' new,' is worthy of men who neither 
understand the Old Testament nor love the New. 
They to whom the Bible is dear for the truth's 
sake will wish its illustrious translator life to accom- 
plish a task as worthy of a Christian statesman's 
retirement as the Tusculans of Cicero were of the 
representative of Rome's lost freedom ~ 

Already in the volume before-mentioned Baron Bun- 
sen has exhibited the Hebrew Prophets as witnesses to 
the Divine Government. To estimate aright his services 
in this province would require from most Englishmen 
years of study. Accustomed to be told that modern 

64 Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 

history is expressed by the Prophets in a riddle, 
which requires only a key to it, they are disappointed 
to hear of moral lessons, however important. Such 
notions are the inheritance of days when Justin could 
argue, in good faith, that by the riches of Damascus 
and the spoil of Samaria were intended the Magi and 
their gifts, and that the King of Assyria signified 
King Herod (!) ;' or when Jerome could say, 'No one 
doubts iliat by Chaldeans are meant Demons,"''' and the 
Shunammite Abishag could be no other than heavenly 
wisdom, for the honour of David's old age'' — not to 
mention such things as Lot's daughters symbolizing 
the Jewish and Gentile Churches.'* It was truly felt 
by the early fathers that Hebrew prophecy tended to 
a system more spiritual than that of Levi ; and they 
argued unanswerably that circumcision and the Sab- 
bath^ were symbols for a time, or means to ends. 
But when, instead of using the letter as an instru- 
ment of the spirit, they began to accept the letter in 
all its parts as their law, and twisted it into harmony 
with the details of Gospel history, they fell into in- 

^ Isaiah viii. 4. Trypho § 77, 8, 9. Well might Trypho answer, that 
such interpretations are strained, it' not blasphemous. 

- On Isaiah xliii. 14, 15, and again, on ch. xlviii. i2-t6. He also shows 
on xlviii. 22, that the Jews of that day had not lost the historical sense of 
their prophecies ; though mystical renderings had already shown them- 
selves. But the later mysticists charitably prayed I'or Hillel, because his 
expositions had been historical. (See Pearson's Notes on Art. iii.) When 
will our mysticists show as Christian a temper as the Jewish ones ? 
Condonct Uomii/us lioc H. Ilillel ! 

^ To Nepotian. Letter 52. 

* Presbyter! apud Irenaeum. 

' Trypho § 41-43. This tract of Justin's shows strikingly a transition 
from the utmost evangelical freedom, with simplicity of thought, to a more 
learned, but confused speculation and literalism. He still thinks reason a 
revelation, Socrates a Christian, pi-ophecy a necessary and perpetual gift of 
God's people, circumcision temporary, because not natural; and lustral 
washings, which he contrasts with mental baptism, superstitious. His 
view of the Sabbath is quite St. Paul's. His making a millennial resur- 
rection the Christian doctrine, as opposed to the neathen immortality of 
the soul, is embarrassing, but perhaps primitive. But his Scriptural inter- 
pretations are dreams, and his charge agaiust the Jews of corrupting the 
Prophets as suicidal as it is groundless. 

BunserCs Biblical Researches, 65 

extrlcable contradictions ; tlie most rational interpre- 
ter among them is Jerome, and the perusal of his 
criticisms is their ample confutation.^ Nor could the 
strong intellect of Augustine compensate for his de- 
fect of little Greek, which he shared with half, and 
of less Hebrew, which he shared with most of the 
Fatliers. But with the revival of learning began a 
reluctant and wavering, yet inevitable, retreat from 
the details of patristic exposition, accompanied with 
some attempts to preserve its spirit. Even Erasmus 
looked that way ; Luther's and Calvin's strong sense 
impelled them some strides in the same direction ; 
but Grotius, who outweighs as a critic any ten oppo- 
sites, went boldly on the road. In our own country 
each successive defence of the prophecies, in propor- 
tion as its author was able, detracted something from 
tlie extent of literal prognostication ; and either laid 
stress on the moral element, or urged a second, as the 
spiritual sense. Even Butler foresaw the possibility, 
that every prophecy in the Old Testament might 
have its elucidation in contemporaneous history ; but 
literature was not his strong point, and he turned 
aside, endeavouring to limit it, from an unwelcome 
idea. Bishop Chandler is said to have thought twelve 
passages in the Old Testament directly Messianic ; 
others restricted this character to five. Paley ven- 
tures to quote only one. Bishop Kidder conceded 
freely an historical sense in Old Testament texts re- 
mote from adaptations in the New. The apostolic 
Middleton pronounced firmly for the same principle ; 
Archbishop Newcome'^ and others proved in detail 

^ Thus he makes Isaac's hundredfold increase, Gen. xxvi. 12, mean 
' multiplication ol' virtues,' because no grain is specified ! Queesf. Sebraic. 
in Gen. ch. xxvi. When Jerome Origenises, he is worse than Oriji,-en, 
because he does not, like that great genius, distinguish the historical from 
the mystical sense. 

■' Collected in the Boyle Lectures. 

2 A Literal Translation of the Prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, with 


66 Bunsens Biblical Researches. 

its necessity. Coleridge, in a suggestive letter, pre- 
served in the memoirs of Gary, the translator of 
Dante, threw secular prognostication altogether out 
of the idea of prophecy.^ Dr. Arnold, and his truest 
followers, bear, not always consistently, on the same 
side. On the other hand, the declamatory assertions, 
so easy in pulpits or on platforms, and aided some- 
times by powers, which produce silence rather than 
conviction, have not only kept alive but magnified 
mth uncritical exaggeration, whatever the Fathers 
had dreamt or modern rhetoric could add, tending to 
make prophecy miraculous. Keith's edition of New- 
ton need not be here discussed. Davison, of Oriel, with 
admirable skill, threw his argument into a series as 
it were of hypothetical syllogisms, with only the defect 
(which some readers overlook) that his minor premise 
can hardly in a single instance be proved. Yet the 
stress which he lays on the moral element of prophecy 
atones for his sophistry as regards the predictive. 
On the whole, even in England, there is a wide gulf 
between the arguments of our genuine critics, with 
the convictions of our most learned clergy, on the 
one side, and the assumptions of popular declamation 
on the other. This may be seen on a comparison 
of Kidder with Keitli.^ But in Germany there has 

Notes, bj' Lowth, Blayney, Newcome, Wiutle, Horsley, &c. London. 
1836. A book unequal, but useful for want of a better, and of wbich a 
revision, if not an entire recast, witli the aid of recent expositors, might 
employ our Biblical scholars. 

1 ' Of prophecies in the sense of //rojnosfiVai'/ow I utterlj' deny that there 
is any instance delivered by one of the illustrious Diadoche, whom the 
Jewish church comprised in the name Projjhets — and I shall regard Ci/rus 
as an exception, when I believe the 137th Psalm to have been composed by 

'Nay, I will go farther, and assert that the contrary belief, the hypothesis 
of prognostication, is in irreconcileable oppugnancy to our Lord's d(;clara- 
tion, that the times hath the Father reserved to Himself.' — Menioh' of 
Canj, vol. ii. p. 180. 

- Amongst recent authors. Dr. Palfrey, an American scholar, has 
expounded in live learned volumes the diiHculties in current traditions about 
prophecy; but instead of remedying these by restricting ihe idea of revela- 

Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 67 

been, a patliway streaming with light, from Eichhorn 
to Ewalcl, aided by tlie poetical penetration of Herder 
and the philological researches of Gesenius, through- 
out which the value of the moral element in prophecy 
has been progressively raised, and that of the directly 
predictive, whether secular or Messianic, has been 
lowered. Even the conservatism of Jahn amongst 
Romanists, and of Hengstenberg amongst Protestants, 
is free and rational, compared to what is often in this 
country required with denunciation, but seldom de- 
fended by argument. 

To this inheritance of opinion Baron Bunsen suc- 
ceeds. Knowing these things, and writing for men 
who know them, he has neither the advanta^-e in 

tlon to Moses and the Gospels, he would have done better to seek a defini- 
tion of revelation which should apply to the Psalms, and Prophets, and 

Mr. Francis Newman, in his ffehrew Mojiarchy, is historically consistent 
in his expositions, which have not been controverted by any serious argu- 
ment ; but his mind seems to fail in the Ideal element ; else he would see, 
that the typical ideas (of patience or of glory) in the Old Testament, find 
their culminating fulfihiient in the New. 

Mr. Mansel's Hampton Lectures must make even those who value his 
argument, regret that to his acknowledged dialectical ability he has not 
added the rudiments of Biblical criticism. In all his volume not one text 
of Scripture is elucidated, nor a single difiiculty in the evidences of Christi- 
anity removed. Recognised mistranslations, and misreadings, are alleged 
as arguments, and passages from the Old Testament are employed without 
reference to the illustration, or inversion, which they have received in the 
New. Hence, as the eristic arts of logic without knowledge of the subject- 
matter become powerless, the author is a mere gladiator hitting in the 
dark, and his blows fall heaviest on what it was his duty to defend. As to 
his main argument (surely a strange parody of Butler), the sentence from 
Sir W. Hamilton prefixed to his volume, seems to me its gem, and its 
confutation. Of the reasonincj, which would bias our interpretation of 
Isaiah, by telling us Feuerbach was an atheist, I need not say a word. 

We are promised from Oxford farther elucidations of the Minor Prophets 
by the Regius Professor of Hebrew, whose book seems launched sufficiently 
to catch the gales of friendship, without yet tempting out of harbour 
the blasts of criticism. Let us hope when the work appears, its interpre- 
tations may dilfer from those of a Catena Aurea, published under high 
auspices in the same university, in which the narrative of Uriah is improved 
by making David represent Christ, and Uriah the devil ; so that the crime 
which 'displeased the Lord,' becomes a prophecy of Him who was harmless 
and undefiled! This co.nes from Anselra on St. Matthew, ch. i. 

F 2 

ob Bunsens Biblical ResearcJies. 

argument of -unique knowledge, nor of unique igno- 
rance. He dare not say, though it was formerly said, 
that David foretold the exile, because it is mentioned 
in the Psalms. He cannot quote Nahum denouncing 
ruin against Nineveh, or Jeremiah against Tyre, 
without remembering that already the Babylonian 
power threw its shadow across Asia, and Nebuchad- 
nezzar was mustering his armies. If he would 
quote the book of Isaiah, he cannot conceal, after 
Gesenius, Ewald, and Maurer have written, that the 
book is composed of elements of different eras. Find- 
ing Perso-Babylonian, or new-coined words, such as 
sagans for officers, and Chaldaic forms of the Hebrew 
verb, such as Aphel for Hiphil, in certain portions, and 
observing that the political horizon of these portions 
is that of the sixth century, while that of the elder or 
more purely Hebraic portions belonged tothe eighth, he 
must accept a theory of authorship and of prediction, 
modified accordingly. So, if under the head of 
Zechariah he finds three distinct styles and aspects of 
affairs, he must acknowled^'e so much, whether he is 
right or wrong in conjecturing the elder Zechariah of 
the age of Isaiah to have written the second portion, 
and Uriah in Jeremiah's ag-e the third. If he would 
quote Micah, as designating Bethlehem for the birth- 
place of the Messiah, he cannot shut his eyes to the 
fact that the Deliverer to come from thence was to be a 
contemporary shield against the Assyrian. If he would 
follow our version in rendering the second Psalm, Kiss 
the son ; he knows that Hebrew idiom convinced even 
Jerome^ the true meaning was, ivorsMp purely. He 
may read in Psalm xxxiv. that, * not a bone of the 
righteous shall be broken,' but he must feel a diffi- 
culty in detaching this from the context, so as to 

^ Cavillatur .... quod posuerim, .... Adorafe pure 
, . . . ne violentus viderer interpres, et Jud. locum dareni. — Ilieron. 
f. Muffin. § 19. 

Bansens Biblical Researches. 69 

make it a prophecy of the crucifixion. If he ac- 
cepts mere versions of Psalm xxii. 17, he mav 
wonder how ' piercing the hands and the feet' can fit 
into the whole passa^^e ; but if he prefers the most 
ancient Hebrew reading, he finds, instead oV piercin//' 
the comparison ' like a lion,' and this corresponds suffi- 
ciently with the ' dogs' of the first clause ; though a 
morally certain emendation would make the parallel 
more perfect by reading the word 'lions' in both 
clauses.^ In either case, the staring monsters are in- 
tended, by whom Israelis surrounded and torn. Again 
he finds in Hosea that the Lord loved Israel when 
he was young, and called him out of Egypt to be his 
son ; but he must feel, with Bishop Kidder, that such 
a citation is rather accommodated to the fliirht of 
Joseph into Egypt, than a prediction to be a ground 
of argument. Fresh from the services of Christmas, 
he may sincerely exclaim. Unto us a child is born ; but 
he knows that the Hebrew translated Mighiy God, is 
at least disputable, that perhaps it means only Strong 
and Mighty One, Fatlier of an Age ; and he can never 
listen to any one who pretends that the Maiden's 
Child of Isaiah vii. 16, was not to be born in the 
reign of Ahaz, as a sign against the Kings Pekah 
and Pezin. In the case of Daniel, he may doubt 
whether all parts of the book are of one age, or what 
is the starting point of the seventy weeks ; but two 
results are clear beyond fair doubt, that the period of 
weeks ended in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, and 
that those portions of the book, supposed to be 
specially predictive, are a history of past occurrences 
up to that reign. When so vast an induction on the 
destructive side has been gone through, it avails little 
that some passages may be doubtful, one perhaps in 
Zechariah, and one in Isaiah, capable of being made 

' By reading D''N^^7D for D^^/D- The Septuagint version may have 
ariseu Irom ^JISpH, taken as iroui Pjp^. 

70 Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 

directly Messianic, and a chapter possibly in Deutero- 
nomy foreshadowing the final fiill of Jerusalem. Even 
these few cases, the remnant of so much confident 
rhetoric, tend to melt, if they are not ah'eady melted, 
in the crucible of searching inquiry. If our German 
had ignored all that the masters of philology have 
proved on these subjects, his countrymen would have 
raised a storm of ridicule, at which he must have 
drowned himself in the Neckar. 

Great then is Baron Bunsen's merit, in accepting 
frankly the belief of scholars, and yet not despairing 
of Hebrew Prophecy as a witness to the kingdom of 
God. The way of doing so left open to hini, was to 
show, pervading the Prophets, tliose deep truths 
which lie at the heart of Christianity, and to trace 
the growth of such ideas, the belief in a righteous 
God, and the nearness of man to God, the power of 
prayer, and the victory of self-sacrificing patience, 
ever expanding in men's hearts, until the fuhiess of 
time came, and the ideal of the Divine thought was 
fulfilled in the Son of Man. Such accordingly is the 
course our author pursues, not with the critical finish 
of Ewald, but with large moral grasp. Why he 
should add to his moral and metaphysical basis of 
propliecy, a notion of foresight by vision of particuhirs, 
or a kind of clairvoyance, though he admits it to be^ a 
natural gift, consistent with fallibility, is not so easy 
to explain. One would wish he might have intended 
only the power of seeing the ideal in the actual, or of 
tracing the Divine Government in the movements of 
men. He seems to mean more than presentiment or 

' ' Die Kraft des Schauens, die ini Menschen verborgen liegt, und, von 
der Niiturnotliwendigkeit befieit, iin liebraischen Prophetenthum .sicli zur 
wahren Weltanschauung erhoben hat .... ist der Schliissel,' ttc, 
Gott in der Geschichte, p. 149. 

* Jene Herrlicblieit besteht nicht in dem Vorhersagen . . . Dieses 
haben sie gemein mit manclien Ausspriichen der Pythia, .... und 
mit vielen Weissagungen der Hellselierinnen dieses Jarhunderts "... 
id. p. 151. 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 71 

sagacity; and tliis element in liis system requires 

The most brilliant portion of tlie prophetical essays 
is the treatment of the later Isaiah. With the inser- 
tion of four chapters concerning Hezekiah from the 
histories of the kings, the words and deeds of the 
elder Isaiah apparently close. It does not follow that 
all the prophecies arranged earlier in the book are from 
his lips ; probably they are not ; but it is clear to 
demonstration/ that the later chapters (xL, &c.,) are 
upon the stooping of Nebo, and the bowing down of 
Babylon, when the Lord took out of the hand of 
Jerusalem the cup of trembhng ; for tlie glad tidings 
of the decree of return were heard upon the mountains; 
and the people went forth, not with haste, or flight, 
for their God went before tliem, and was their rereward 
(ch. lii.) So they went forth with joy, and were led 
forth with peace (ch. liv.). So the arm of the Lord was 
laid bare, and his servant who had foretold it was 
now counted wise, though none had believed his report. 
We cannot take a portion out of this continuous song, 
and by dividing it as a chapter, separate its primarj^ 
meaning from what precedes and follows. The servant 
in chapters lii. and liii. must have relation to the servant 
in chapters xlii.and xlix. Who was this servant, that had 
foretold the exile and the return, and had been a man of 
grief, rejected of his people, imprisoned and treated as 
a malefactor? The oldest Jewish tradition, preserved 
in Origen,^ and to be inferred from Justin,^ said the 
chosen people — in opposition to heathen oppressors — 
an opinion which suits ch. xlix. ver. 3. Nor is the^ later 

' To prove this, let any one read Jerome's arguments against it; if the 
sacred text itself be not sufficient proof. ' Go ye forth of JBahi/Ion,' &c., 
ch. xlviii. 20. 

2 C. Celsum, i. 55. (Quoted by Pearson.) 

^ For, in making the Gentiles mean Proselijies, they must have made 
the servant Israel. dXXa ri; ovTrpbsT6vv6ij.ov\fyet,,KaiTovs<po}TL^oiJievovs 
vn' avTov, K.T.X. — Trypho, § T22. 

* Later, because it implies the fall of Jerusalem. It is thought to have. 

72 Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 

exposition of the Targum altogether at variance ; for 
though Jonathan speaks of the Messiah, it is in the 
character of a Judaic deliverer : and his expressions 
about ' the holy people s being multiplied,' and seeing 
their sanctuary rebuilt, especially when he calls the 
holy people a remnant,^ may be fragments of a tradi- 
tion older than his time. It is idle, with Pearson,^ 
to quote Jonathan as a witness to the Christian inter- 
pretation, unless his conception of the Messiah were 
ours. But the idea of the Anointed One, which in 
some of the Psalms belongs to Israel, shifted from 
time to time, being applied now to people, and now 
to king or prophet, until at length it assumed a 
sterner form, as the Jewish spirit was hardened by 
persecutions into a more vindicative hope. The first 
Jewish expositor who loosened, without breaking 
Eabbinical fetters, P. Saadiah,^ in the 9th century, 
named Jeremiah as the man of grief, and emphatically 
the prophet of the return, rejected of his people. 
Grotius, with his usual sagacity, divined the same 
clue ; though Michaelis says upon it, pessime Grotius. 
Baron Bunsen puts together, with masterly analysis, 
the illustrative passages of Jeremiah ; and it is 
difficult to resist the conclusion to which they tend. 
Jeremiah compares his whole peojDle to sheep going 
astray,'^ and himself to ' a lamb or an ox, brought to 
the slaughter.'^ He was taken from prison ;*" and 

been compiled in the fourth century of our era. It is very doubtful, 
whether the Jewish schools of the middle ayes had (except in fragments) 
any Hermeneutic tradition so old as what we gather liom the Church lathers, 
however unfairly this may be reported. My own belief is clear that they 
had not. 

^ '^^'Vjp nib^n X\yD\ and Kli^ti^ rr^ rS'^yil.-Targum on 
Isaiah liii. 

" In Pearson's hands, even the Rabbins become more Rabbinical. His 
citations from Jonathan and from Jarchi are most untair; and in general 
he makes their prose more prosaic. 

^ TiLularly styled Gaon, as president of the Sora school. 

■• Jer. xxiii. i, 2 ; 1. 6-17; xii. 3. 

* Jer. xi. 19. 

* Jer, xxxviii. 4-6, 13; xxxvii. 16. 

Biinsens Biblical Researches. 73 

his generation, or posterity, none took account of ;^ 
he interceded for his people in prayer:^ but was not 
the less despised, and a man of grief, so that no 
sorrow was like his f men assigned his grave witli 
the wicked,* and his tomb with the oppressors ; all 
who followed him seemed cut off out of the land of the 
living,^ yet his seed prolonged their days ;^ his pro- 
phecy was fulfilled,'^ and the arm of the Eternal laid 
bare ; he was counted wise on the return ; his place 
in the book of Sirach^ shows how eminently he was 
enshrined in men's thoughts as the servant of God ; 
and in the book of Maccabees^ he is the gray prophet, 
who is seen in vision, fulfilling his task of interceding 
for the people. 

This is an imperfect sketch, but may lead readers to 
consider the arguments for applying Isaiah Hi. and liii. 
to Jeremiah. Their weight (in the master's hand) is 
so great, that if any single person should be selected, 
they prove Jeremiah should be the one. Nor are they 
a slight illustration of the historical sense of that 
famous chapter, which in tlie original is a history.^'' 
Still the general analogy of the Old Testament which 
makes collective Israel, or the prophetic remnant, 
especially the servant of Jehovah, and the comparison 
of ch. xlii., xlix. may permit us to think the oldest inter- 
pretation the truest ; with only this admission, that 

^ Jer. xi. 19-23; XX. lO; xxxvi. 19; xlv. 2, 3. 

^ Jer. xviii 20; xiv. 11 ; xv. i. 

^ Jer. xviii. 18 ; xx. 9-17 ; Lam. iii. 1-13. 

^ Lara. iii. 52-54; Jer. xxvi. 11-15, 23 ; xliv. 15, 16; i. iS, 19. 

* Jer. xlv. 1-3; xi. 19; xli. 2, 3: with xli. 9, 10 ; xlii. i, 2, 10. 

" Psalms cxx. cxxii. cxxvi. cxxix. &c. ; Isaiah xliii. 1-5, 10-14. 

^ Lam. i. 17; Jer. xvi. 15; xxx. 1-3, 10, 18; xxxi. 6-12; Isaiah xliv. 
7, 8 ; xlvi. 1-9,10 ; 1. 5, 6 ; Iii. IO-13. 

** Eccles. xlix. 6, 7, and Jer. i. 

^ 2 Mace. XV. 13, 14. 

'" The tenses from verse 2 onward are rather historical than predictive; 
and in ver. 8, for he was stricken, the Hebrew is, ^iu} i?Jj, the stroke 
was upon them; i.e. on the generation of the faithful, which was cut oii"; 
when the blood of the Pi'ophets was shed on every side of Jerusalem. 

74 Hunsens Biblical BesearcJtcs. 

tlie figure of Jeremiali stood forth amongst the Pro- 
phets, and tinged the dehneation of the true Israel, 
that is, the faitJifid remnant who had heen disbelieved 
— -just as the figure of Laud or Hammond might 
represent the Caroline Church in the eyes of her poet. 

If this seems but a compromise, it may be justi- 
fied by Ewald's phrase, ' Die ivenigen Treuen im Exile, 
Jeremjah tind Aadre^^ though he makes the servant 
idealized Israel. 

If any sincere Christian now asks, is not then our 
Saviour spoken of in Isaiah ; let him open his New 
Testament, and ask therewith John the Baptist, 
whether he was Elias? If he finds the Baptist 
answering / am not, yet our Lord testifies that in 
spirit and power this was Elias ; a little reflexion will 
show how the historical representation in Isaiah liii. is 
of some suffering prophet or remnant, yet the truth 
and patience, the griefand triumph, have their highest 
fulfilment in Him who said, ' Father, not ni}'^ will, 
but thine.' But we must not distort the prophets, 
to prove the Divine worb incarnate, and then from 
the incarnation reason back to the sense of prophecy. 

Loudly as justice and humanity exclaim against 
such traditional distortion of prophecy as makes their 
own sacred writings a ground of cruel prejudice against 
the Hebrew people, and the fidelity of this remarkable 
race to the oracles of their fathers a handle for social 
obloquy, the cause of Christianity itself would be the 
greatest gainer, if we laid aside weapons, the use of 
which brings shame. Israel would be acknowledged, 
as in some sense still a Messiah, having borne centuries 
of reproach through the sin of the nations ; but the 
Saviour who fulfilled in his own person the highest 
aspiration of Hebrew seers and of mankind, thereby 
lifting the ancient words, so to speak, into a new and 

* Die Pi'opheten, d. A.B. 2ter Band, pp. 438-453. 

Bunseris Biblical Researches. 75 

higher power, would be recognised as having eminently 
the unction of a prophet whose words die not, of a 
priest in a temple not made with hands, and of a king 
in the realm of thought, delivering his people from a 
bondage of moral evil, worse than Egypt or Babylon. 
If already the vast majority of the prophecies are 
acknowledged by our best authorities to require some 
such rendering, in order to Christianize them, and if 
this acknowledgment has become uniformly stronger 
in proportion as learning was unfettered, the force of 
analogy leads us to anticipate that our Isaiah too must 
require a similar interpretation. No new principle is 
thrust upon the Christian world, by our historical 
understanding of this famous chapter; but a case 
which had been thought exceptional, is shown to 
harmonize with a general principle. 

Wliether the great prophet, whose triumphant 
thanksgiving on the return from Babylon forms the 
later chapters of our Isaiah, is to remain without a 
name, or whether Baron Bunsen has succeeded in 
identifying him with Baruch, the disciple, scribe, and 
perhaps biographer or editor of Jeremiah, is a question 
of probability. Most readers of the argument for the 
identity will feel inclined to assent ; but a doubt may 
occur, whether many an unnamed disciple of the pro- 
phetic school may not have burnt with kindred zeal, and 
used diction not peculiar to any one ; while such a 
doubt may be strengthened by the confidence with 
which our critic ascribes a recasting of Job, and 
of parts of other books, to the same favourite Baruch. 
Yet, if kept within the region of critical conjecture, 
his reasons are something more than ingenious. It 
may weigh with some Anglicans, that a letter ascribed 
to St. Athanasius mentions Baruch among the ca- 
nonical prophets.^ 

lepefxias, ku\ aiiv avTm Bapovx, ^p^jfOh 'ETrtcrroX^ Kcii fxer' avrov 'if^e/ct^X, 
K.T.X. — JS^. Fest. 

76 Hunseii's Biblical Researches. 

In clistinguisliing the man Daniel from our book of 
Daniel, and in bringing the latter as low as the reign 
of Epiphanes, our author only follows the admitted 
necessities of the case.^ Not only Macedonian words, 
such as sijwjjlionia'^- and psanierion, but the texture of 
the Chaldaic, with such late forms as T^? 'P- ^i^cl 
\f)^ the pronominal Q and r? having passed into 
1' and not only minute description of Antiochus's 
reign, but the stoppage of such description at the 
precise date 169 b.c, remove all philological and critical 
doubt as to the age of the book. But what seenis 
peculiar to Baron Bunsen, is the interpretation of the 
four empires' sj^mbols with reference to the original 
Daniel's abode in Nineveh ; so that the winged lion 
traditionally meant the Assyrian empire ; the bear was 
the Babylonian symbol; the leopard that of the Medes 
and Persians ; while the fourth beast represented, as 
is not uncommonly held, the sway of Alexander. A 
like reference is traced in the mention of Hiddekel, or 
the Tigris, in ch. x. ; for, if the scene had been 
Babylon under Darius, the river must have been the 
Euphrates. The truth seems, that starting like many 
a patriot bard of our own, from a name traditionally 
sacred, the writer used it with no deceptive intention, 
as a dramatic form which dignified his encourage- 
ment of his countrymen in their great struggle against 
Antiochus. The original place of the book,^ amongst 
the later Hagiographa of the Jewish canon, and the 
absence of any mention of it by the son of Sirach, 
strikingly confirm this view of its origin ; and, if some 
obscurit}^ rests upon details, the general conclusion, 
that the book contains no predictions, except by 

^ Auberlen indeed defends, but says, ' Die Unaclitlieit Daniels ist in der 
niodernen Theoloyie zum Axiom gewoi-den.' — Uer Frvj^>Iiet Daniel. Ba."el. 

- Compare ' Philosophy of Universal History*' (part of the Sippolijlus), 
vol. i. pp. 217-219, with GoU in der Geschivhte, istr Theil. pp. 514-540. 

^ The saj'ing tliat later Jews changed the place of the book in the caiiun, 
seems to rest on no evidence. 

Bunsens Biblical Researches, 77 

analogy and type, can hardly be gainsaid. But it 
may not the less, with some of the latest Psalms, have 
nerved the men of Israel, when they turned to flight 
the armies of the aliens ; and it suggests, in the 
godless invader, no slight forecast of Caligula again 
invading the Temple with like abomination, as well as 
of whatever exalts itself against faith and conscience, 
to the end of the world. It is time for divines to 
recognise these things, since, with their opportunities 
of study, the current error is as discreditable to 
them, as for the well-meaning crowd, who are taught 
to identify it with their creed, it is a matter of grave 

It provokes a smile on serious topics to observe the 
zeal with which our critic vindicates the personality 
of Jonah, and the originality of his hymn (the latter 
being generally thought doubtful), while he proceeds 
to explain that tlie narrative of our book, in which the 
hymn is imbedded, contains a late legend,^ founded on 
misconception. One can imagine the cheers which 
the opening of such an essay might evoke in some 
of our own circles, changing into indignation as the 
distinguished foreigner developed his views. After 
this he might speak more gently of mythical theo- 

But, if such a notion alarms those who think that, 
apart from omniscience belonging to the Jews, the 
proper conclusion of reason is atheism ; it is not in- 
consistent with the idea that Almighty God has been 
pleased to educate men and nations, employing ima- 
gination no less than conscience, and suffering His 
lessons to play freely within the limits of humanity 
and its shortcomings. Nor will any fair reader rise 
from the prophetical disquisitions without feeling that 
he has been under the guidance of a master's hand. 

> The present writer feels excused from repeating here the explanation 
given in the appenlix to his Sermon on Christian Freedom. London, 1858. 

78 Biinsens Biblical Researches. 

The great result is to vindicate the work of the 
Eternal Spirit ; that abiding influence, which as our 
church teaches us in the Ordination Service, under- 
lies ail others, and in which converge all images of 
old time and means of grace now ; temple. Scripture, 
finger, and hand of God ; and again, preaching, sacra- 
ments, waters which comfort, and flame which burns. 
If such a Spirit did not dwell in the Church the Bible 
would not be inspired, for the Bible is, before all 
things, the written voice of the congregation. Bold 
as such a theory of inspiration may sound, it was the 
earliest creed of the Church, and it is the only one to 
which the facts of Scripture answer. The Sacred 
Writers acknowledge themselves men of like passions 
with ourselves, and we are promised illumination 
from the Spirit which dwelt in them. Hence, when 
we find our Prayer-book constructed on the idea of 
the Church being an inspired society, instead of ob- 
jecting that every one of us is fallible, we should 
define inspiration consistently with the facts of Scrip- 
ture, and of human nature. These would neither 
exclude the idea of fallibility among Israelites of old, 
*nor teach us to quench the Spirit in true hearts for 
ever. But if any one prefers thinking the Sacred 
Writers passionless machines, and calling Luther and 
Milton ' uninspired,' let him co-operate in researches 
by which his theory, if true, will be triumphantly 
confirmed. Let him join in considering it a religious 
duty to print the most genuine text of those words 
wliicli he calls Divine ; let him yield no grudging 
assent to the removal of demonstrated interpolations 
in our text or errors in our translation ; let him give 
English equivalents for its Latinisms, once natural, 
but now become deceptive ; let him next trace fairly 
the growth of our complex doctrines out of scriptural 
germs, whether of simple thought or of Hebrew idiom ; 
then, if he be not prepared to trust our Church with 
a larger freedom in incorporating into her language 

Bunsens Biblical BesearcUes. 79 

the results of such inquiry and adapting one-sided 
forms to wider experience, he will at least have ac- 
quired such a knowledge of this field of thought as 
may induce him to treat labourers in it with respect. 
A recurrence to first principles, even of Revelation, 
ma}', to minds prudent or timid, seem a process of more 
danger than advantage \ and it is possible to defend 
our traditional theology, if stated reasonably, and with 
allowance for the accidents of its growth. But what 
is not possible, with honesty, is to uphold a fabric of 
mingled faith and speculation, and in the same breath 
to violate the instinct which believed, and blindfold 
the mind which reasoned. It would be strange if 
God's work were preserved, by disparaging the instru- 
ments which His wisdom chose for it. 

On turning to the Hippolytus} we find a congeries 
of subjects, but yet a whole, pregnant and suggestive 
beyond any book of our time. To lay deep the founda- 
tions of faith in the necessities of the human mind, 
and to establish its confirmation by history, distin- 
guishing the local from the universal, and translat- 
ing the idioms of priesthoods or races into the broad 
speech of humanity, are amongst parts of the great 
argument. Of those wonderful aphorisms, which are 
further developed in the second volume of Gott in der 
GeschicJite, suffice it here, that their author stands at 
the farthest pole from those who find no divine foot- 
steps in the Gentile world. He believes in Christ, 
because he first believes in God and in mankind. 
In this he harmonizes with the church Fathers be- 
fore Augustine, and with all our deepest Evangeli- 
cal school. In handling the New Testament he re- 
mains faithful to his habit of exalting spiritual ideas, 

* Sippolytus and his Age, by Chr. C. J. Bunsen, &c. London, 1852. 
2nd edition, recast, London, 1854. Tlie Jiwakening freshness of the first 
edition is hardl}' replaced by the f'uhiess of the second. It is to be wished 
tliat the Biblical portions of the PJdlosi'phy of Universal I£is{ori/,\o\. ii. 
pp. T 49-338, were reprinted in a cheap foriu. 

so Bunseiis Biblical Researches. 

and the leading characters by whose personal impulse 
they have been stamped on the world. Otlier foun- 
dation for healthful mind or durable society he suffers 
no man to lay, save that of Jesus, the Christ of God. 
In Him he finds brought to perfection that religious 
idea, which is the thought of the Eternal, without 
conformity to which our souls cannot be saved from 
evil. He selects for emphasis such sayings as, 
' I came to cast fire upon the earth, and how I v:ould it 
tvere already kindled ! I have a haptisni to he baptized 
2iith, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished T 
In these he finds the innermost mind of the Son of 
Man, undimmecl by the haze of mingled imagination 
and remembrance, with which His awful figure could 
scarcely fail to be at length invested by aifection. 
The glimpses thus afforded us into the depth of our 
Lord's purpose, and His law of giving rather than 
receiving, explain the wonder-working power with 
which He wielded the truest hearts of His genera- 
tion, and correspond to His life and death of self- 

This recognition of Christ as the moral Saviour of 
mankind may seem to some Baron Bunsen's most 
obvious claim to the name of Christian. For, though 
he embraces with more than orthodox warmth New 
Testament terms, he explains them in such a way, 
that he may be charged with using Evangelical lan- 
guage in a philosophical sense. But in reply he would 
ask, what proof is there that the reasonable sense of 
St. Paul's words was not the one which the Apostle 
intended ? Why may not justification by faith have 
meant the peace of mind, or sense of Divine approval, 
which comes of trust in a righteous God, rather than 
a fiction of merit by transfer? St. Paul would then 
be teaching moral responsibility, as opposed to sacer- 
dotalism ; or that to obey is better than sacrifice. 
Faith would be opposed, not to the good deeds which 
conscience requires, but to works of anpeasement 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 81 

Idj ritual. Justification would be neither an arbitrary 
ground of confidence, nor a reward upon condition of 
our disclaiming merit, but rather a verdict of forgive- 
ness upon our repentance, and of acceptance upon the 
offering of our hearts. It is not a fatal objection, to 
say that St. Paul would thus teach Natural lieligion, 
unless we were sure that he was bound to contradict 
it ; but it is a confirmation of the view, if it brings 
liis hard sayings into harmony with the Gospels and 
with the Psalms, as well as with the instincts of our best 
conscience. If we had dreamed of our nearest kindred 
in irreconcilable combat, and felt anguish at the 
thought of opposing either, it could be no greater 
relief to awake, and find them at concord, than it 
would be to some minds to find the antasronism be- 
tween Nature and Pevelation vanishing^ in a wider 
grasp and deeper perception of the one, or in a better 
balanced statement of the other. 

If our philosopher had persuaded us of the moral 
nature of Justification, he would not shrink from 
adding that Regeneration is a correspondent giving 
of insight, or an awakening of forces of the soul. By 
Pesurrection he would mean a spiritual quickening. 
Salvation would be our deliverance, not from the life- 
giving God, but from evil and darkness, which are His 
finite opposites, (o avTiKiiinvoq}) Propitiation would be 
the recovery of that peace, which cannot be while sin 
divides us from the Searcher of hearts. The eternal 
is what belongs to God, as Spirit, therefore the negation 
of things finite and unspiritual, whether world, or 
letter, or rite of blood. The hateful fires of the vale 
of Hinnom, (Gehenna,) are hardly in the strict letter 
imitated by the God who has pronounced them cursed, 
but may serve as images of distracted remorse. Hea- 

' ' The doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of Grace, and the doctrine of 
the Atonement, are grounded in the instincts of mankind.' — Mozley on 
Predestination, chap. xi. p. 33T. 


S2 Bimsens Biblical Besearches. 

ven is not a place, so much as fulfilment of the love 
of God. The kingdom of God is no more Eomish 
sacerdotalism than Jewish royalty, but the realization 
of the Divine Will in our thoughts and lives. This 
expression of spirit, in deed and form, is generically 
akin to creation, and illustrates the incarnation. For 
though the true substance of Deity took body in the 
Son of Man, they who know the Divine Substance to 
be Spirit, will conceive of such embodiment of the 
Eternal Mind very differently from those who abstract 
all Divine attributes, such as consciousness, fore- 
thought, and love, and then imagine a material 
residuum, on which they confer the Holiest name. 
The Divine attributes are^ consubstantial with the 
Divine Essence. He who abides in love, abides in 
God, and God in him. Thus the incarnation 
with our author as purely spiritual, as it was with St. 
Paul. The son of David by birth is the Son of God 
by the spirit of holiness. What is flesh, is born of 
flesh, and what is spirit, is born of spirit.^ 

If we would estimate the truth of such viev/s, the 
full import of which hardly lies on the surface, we find 
two lines of inquiry present themselves as criteria : 
and each of these divides itself into two branches. 
First, as regards the subject matter, both spiritual 
affection and metaphysical reasoning forbid us to 
confine revelatiai^s like those of Christ to the first 
half century of our era, but show at least affinities of 
our faith existing in men's minds, anterior to Chris- 
tianity, and renewed with deep echo from living hearts 
in many a generation. Again, on the side of external 
criticism, we find the evidences of our canonical books 
and of the patristic authors nearest to them, are 

' On this point the summary of St. Augustine at the end of his 15th 
book, ' On the Trinity,' is worth reading. 

^ ' Neque sermo aliud quam Deus neque caro aliud quam homo,' and ' ex 
carne homo, ex spiritu l)eus.' — TertuUian adv. JPrax. c. xxvii. Comp, 
Romans i. 1-3. 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. S3 

sufficient to prove illustration in outward act of prin- 
ciples perpetually true ; but not adequate to guarantee 
narratives inherently incredible, or precepts evidently 
wrono-. Hence we are oblio-ed to assume in ourselves 
a verifying faculty, not unlike the discretion which a 
mathematician, would use in weighing a treatise on 
geometry, or the liberty which a musician would 
reserve in reporting a law of harmony. Thus, as we 
are expressly told, we are to have the witness in our- 
selves. It is not our part to dictate to Almighty Grod, 
tliat He ought to have spared us this strain upon our 
consciences ; nor in giving us through His Son a 
deeper revelation of His own presence, was He bound 
to accompany His gift by a special form of record.^ 
Hence there is no antecedent necessity that the least 
rational view of the gospel should be the truest, or 
that our faith should liave no human element, and its 
records be exempt from historical law. Eather we 
may argue, the more Divine the germ, the more human 
must be the development. 

Our author tlien believes St. Paul, because he under- 
stands him reasonably. Nor does his acceptance of 
Christ's redemption from evil bind him to repeat 
traditional fictions about our canon, or to read its 
pages with that dulness which turns symbol and 
poetry into materialism. On the side of history lies 
the strength of his genius. His treatment of the 
New Testament is not very unlike the acute criticism 
of De Wette, tempered by the affectionateness of 
Neander. He finds in the first three gospels divergent 
forms of the tradition, once oral, and perhaps cate- 
chetical, in the congregations of the apostles. He thus 
explains the numerous traces characteristic of a tradi- 
tional narrative. He does not ascribe the quadruple 
division of record to the four churches of Jerusalem, 
Eome, Antioch, and Alexandria, on the same principle 

' Butler's Analogy. Part ii, ch. iii. Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Books i. ii. 

G 2 

84 Bunsens Biblical Researches. 

as liturgical families are traced ; but he requires time 
enough for some development, and for the passing 
of some symbol into story. By making the fourth 
gospel the latest of all our genuine books, he accounts 
for its style (so much more Greek than the Apocalypse), 
and explains many passages. The verse, 'And no 
man hath ascended up to Heaven, but he that came 
down,'^ is intelligible as a free comment near the end 
of the first century ; but has no meaning in our Lord's 
mouth at a time when the ascension had not been 
heard of. So the Apocalypse, if taken as a series of 
poetical visions, which represent the outpouring of the 
vials of wrath upon the city where the Lord was 
slain, ceases to be a riddle. Its horizon answers to that 
of Jerusalem already threatened by the legions of 
Vespasian, and its language is partly adapted from 
the older prophets, partly a repetition of our Lord's 
warnings as described by the Evangelists, or as 
deepened into wilder threatenings in the mouth of 
the later Jesus,^ the son of Ananus. The Epistle 
to the Hebrews, so different in its conception of 
faith, and in its Alexandrine rhythm, from the 
doctrine and the language of St. Paul's known Epistles, 
has its degree of discrepance explained by ascribing 
it to some^ companion of the apostles ; and minute 
reasons are found for fixing with probability on Apollos. 
The second of the Petrine Epistles, having alike 
external and internal evidence against its genuineness, 
is necessarily surrendered as a whole ; and our critic's 
good faith in this respect is more certain than the 
ingenuity with which he reconstructs a part of it. 
The second chapter may not improbably be a quotation; 
but its quoter, and the author of the rest of the epistle, 

* John iii. 13. 

* Joseplius, B. J. b. vi. c. v. § 3. 

^ In my own judgment, the Epistle bears traces of being ^05^-apostolic. 
ii. 3; iii, 14; X. 25-32; xiii. 7, 8. 

Bansens Biblical Researches. 85 

need not therefore liave been St. Peter. "Where so 
many points are handled, fancifuhiess in some may be 
pardoned ; and indulgence is needed for the eagerness 
with which St. Paul is made a widower, because some 
Fathers^ misunderstood the texts, ' true yoke-fellow,' 
and ' leading about a sister.' 

After a survey of the Canon ; the working as of 
leaven in meal, of that awakening of mankind which 
took its impulse from the life of Christ, is traced 
through the first seven generations of Christendom. 
After Origen, the first freedom of the Gospel grows 
faint, or is hardened into a system more Ecclesiastical 
in form, and more dialectical in speculation, the fresh 
language of feeling or symbol being transferred to the 
domain of logic, like Homer turned into prose by a 
scholiast. It need not, to a philosophical observer, 
necessarily follow that the change was altogether a 
corruption ; for it may have been the Providential 
condition of religious feeling brought into contact with 
intellect, and of the heavenly kingdom's expansion in 
the world. The elasticity with which Christianity 
gathers into itself the elements of natural piety, and 
assimilates the relics of Grentile form and usage, can 
only be a ground of objection with those who have 
reflected little on the nature of revelation. But 
Baron Bunsen, as a countryman of Luther, and a 
foUow^er of those Friends of God whose profound 
mysticism appears in the Theologia Germanica, takes 
decided jDart with the first freshness of Christian free- 
dom, against the confused thought and furious passions 
which disfigure most of the great councils. Those 
who imagine that the laws of criticism are arbitrary 
(or as they say, subjective), may learn a different 
lesson from the array of passages, the balance of 
evidence, and the estimate of each author's point of 
view, with which the picture of Christian antiquity 

Clement and Origen, amongst others. 

86 Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 

is unrolled in the pages of the liippolytus. Every 
triumpli of our faith, in purifying life, or in softening 
and enlightening barbarism, is there expressed in the 
lively records of Liturgies and Canons ; and again 
the shadows of night approach, with monkish fana- 
ticism and imperial tyranny, amidst intrigues of 
bishops who play the parts, alternately, of courtier 
and of demagogue. 

The picture was too truly painted for that ecclesias- 
tical school which appeals loudest to antiquity, and 
has most reason to dread it. While they imagine a 
system of Divine immutability, or one in which, at 
worst, holy fathers unfolded reverently Apostolic 
oracles, the true history of the Church exhibits the 
turbulent growth of youth ; a democracy, with all its 
passions, transforming itself into sacerdotalism, and 
a poetry, with its figures, partly represented by doc- 
trine, and partly perverted. Even the text of Scrip- 
ture fluctuated in sympathy with the changes of the 
Church, especially in passages bearing on asceticism, 
and the fuller development of the Trinity. The first 
Christians held that the heart was purified by faith ; 
the accompanying symbol, water, became by degrees 
the instrument of purification. Holy baptism w^as at 
first preceded by a vow, in which the young soldier 
expressed his consciousness of spiritual truth ; but 
when it became twisted into a false analogy with cir- 
cumcision, the rite degenerated into a magical form, 
and the Augustinian notion, of a curse inherited by 
infants, was developed in connexion with it. Sacrifice 
with the Psalmist, meant not the goat's or heifer's 
blood-shedding, but the contrite heart expressed by it. 
So, with St. Paul, it meant the presenting of our 
souls and bodies, as an oblation of the reason, or 
worship of the mind. The ancient liturgies contain 
prayers that God would make our sacrifices 'rational,' 
that is, spiritual. Religion was thus moralized by a 
sense of the righteousness of God ; and morality 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 87 

transfigured into religion, by a sense of His holiness. 
Vestiges of this earliest creed jet remain in our com- 
munion service. As in life, so in sacrament, the first 
Christians ofiered themselves in the Spirit of Christ ; 
therefore, in his name. But when the priest took the 
place of the congregation, when the sacramental signs 
were treated as the natural body, and the bodily 
sufi"erings of Christ enhanced above the self-sacrifice 
of His will even to the death of the cross, the centre 
of Christian faith became inverted, though its form 
remained. Men forgot that the writer to the Hebrews 
exalts the blood of an everlasting, that is, of a spiritual 
covenant ; for what is fleshly, vanishes away. The 
angels who hover with phials, catching the drops from 
the cross, are pardonable in art, but make a step in 
theology towards transubstantiation. Salvation from 
evil through sharing the Saviour's spirit, was shifted 
into a notion of purchase from God through the price 
of His bodily pangs. The deep drama of heart and 
mind became externalized into a commercial transfer, 
and this effected by a form of ritual. So with the 
more speculative Fathers, the doctrine of the Trinity 
was a profound metaphysical problem, wedded to what 
seemed consequences of the incarnation. But in ruder 
hands, it became a materialism almost idolatrous, or 
an arithmetical enigma.^ Even now, diff'erent accepters 
of the same doctrinal terms hold many shades of con- 
ception between a philosophical view which recom- 
mends itself as easiest to believe, and one felt to be so 
irrational, that it calls in the aid of terror. ' Quasi non 
unitas, irrationaliter collecta, hseresin faciat ; et Trinitas 
ratioualiter expensa, veritatem constituat,' said Ter- 

-^ See this shown, with just rehuke of some Oxford sophistries, in the 
learned Bishop Kaye's Council of Nic^sa, London, 1853 ; a book of 
admirable moderation, though hardly of speculative power. See pp. 163, 
168, 194, 199, 219, 226, 251, 252. 

• Adv. Prax. c. iii. 

88 Bunsens Biblical BesearcJies. 

The liistorian of such variations was not likely, 
with those whose theology consists of invidious terms, 
to escape the nickname of Pelagian or Sabellian. 
He evidently could not state Original Sin in so exag- 
gerated a form as to make the design of God altered 
by the first agents in His creation, or to destroy the 
notion of moral choice and the foundation of ethics. 
Nor could his Trinity destroy by inference that divine 
Unity which all acknowledge in terms. The fall of 
Adam represents with him ideally the circumscrip- 
tion of our spirits in limits of flesh and time, and 
practically the selfish nature with which we fall from 
the likeness of God, which should be fulfilled in man. 
So his doctrine of the Trinity ingenuously avoids 
building on texts which our Unitarian critics from 
Sir Isaac Newton to Gilbert Wakefield have im- 
pugned, but is a philosophical rendering of the first 
chapter of St. John's Gospel. The profoundest ana- 
lysis of our world leaves the law of thought as its 
ultimate basis and bond of coherence. This thought 
is con substantial with the Being of the Eternal I AM. 
Being, becoming, and animating, or substance, think- 
ing, and conscious life, are expressions of a Triad, 
which may be also represented as will,^ wisdom, and 
love, as light, radiance, and warmth, as fountain, 
stream, and united flow, as mind, thought, and con- 
sciousness, as person, word, and life, as Father, Son, 
and Spirit. In virtue of such identity of Thought 
with Being the primitive Trinity represented neither 
three originant principles nor three transient phases, 
but three eternal subsistences in one Divine Mind. 
'The unity of God, as the eternal Father, is the'' 
fundamental doctrine of Christianity.' But the I)i- 

' ' Auinia hominis naturu sua in se habet Ss. Trinitatis simulacrum ; in 
se eniin tria complectitur, Meutem, Intellectum, et Voluntateiu ; . . . 
cojjitat . . . pei'cipit . . . vult.' — Bede i. 8. Copying almost 
verbally St. Augustine. 

- m^polytus, vol ii. p. 46. ist ed. 

Bunsens Biblical Besearclies. 89' 

vine Consciousness or Wisdom, consubstantial with the 
Eternal AVill, becoming personal in the Son of man, is 
the express image of the Father ; and Jesus actually, 
but also mankind ideally, is the Son of God. If all 
this has a Sabellian or almost a Brahmanical sound, 
its impugners are bound, even on patristic grounds, to 
show how it differs from the doctrine of Justin Martyr, 
TertuUian, Hippolytus, Origen, and the historian 
Eusebius. If the language of those very Fathers who 
wrote against different forms of Sabellianism, would, 
if now first used, be condemned as Sabellian, are we 
to follow the ancient or the modern guides? May 
not a straining after orthodoxy, with all the confusion 
incident to metaphj^sical terms, have led the scholars 
beyond their masters ? We have some authorities, 
who, if Athanasius himself were quoted anonymously, 
would neither recognise the author nor approve his 
doctrine. They would judge him by the creed bear- 
ing his name, the sentiments of which are as difficult 
to reconcile with his genuine works as its Latin terms 
are with his Greek language. Baron Bunsen vlvaj ad- 
mire that creed as little as Jeremy Taylor^ and Tillot- 
son did, without necessarily contradicting the great 
Father to whom it is ascribed. Still more, as a phi- 
losopher, sitting loose to our Articles, he may delibe- 
rately assign to the conclusions of councils a very sub- 
ordinate value ; and taking his stand on the genuine 
words of Holy Scripture, and the immutable laws of 
God to the human mind, he may say either the doc- 
trine of the Trinity agrees with these tests, or, if you 
make it disagree, you make it false. If he errs in his 
speculation, he gives us in his critical researches the 
surest means of correcting his errors ; and his polemic 
is at least triumphant against those who load the 
Church with the conclusions of patristic thought, and 

^ ' Liherty of Prophesyinc/,' pp.491, 492; vol. vii. ed. Heber. Burnet's 
' Own Times.' Letter from Tillotson at the end. 

90 Bunsens Biblical ResearcJies. 

forbid our thinking sufficiently to understand them. 
As the coolest heads at Trent said, Take care lest in 
condemning Luther you condemn St. Augustine ; so 
if our defenders of the faith would have men believe 
the doctrine of the Trinity, they had better not forbid 
metaphysics, nor even sneer at Eealism. 

The strong assertions in the Hippolytus concerning 
the freedom of the human will, may require some 
balance from the language of penitence and of prayer. 
They must be left here to comparison with the con- 
stant language of the Greek Church, with the doctrine 
of the first four centuries, with the schoolmen's prac- 
tical evasions of the Augustinian standard which they 
professed, and with the guarded, but earnest protests 
and limitations of our own ethical divines from Hooker 
and Jeremy Ta^dor to Butler and Hampden. 

On the great hope of mankind, the immortality of 
the soul, the Hippolytus left something to be desired. 
It had a Brahmanical, rather than a Christian, or 
Platonic, sound. But the second volume of Gott in 
der GeschicJde seems to imply that, if the author recoils 
from the fleshly resurrection and Judaic millennium 
of Justin Martyr, he still shares the aspiration of the 
noblest philosophers elsewhere, and of the firmer 
believers among ourselves, to a revival of conscious 
and individual life, in such a form of immortality as 
may consist with union with the Spirit of our Eternal 
life-giver. Remarkable in the same volume is the 
generous vindication of the first Buddhist Sakya 
against the misunderstandings which fastened on him 
a doctrine of atheism and of annihilation. The pene- 
trating prescience of Neander seems borne out on this 
point by genuine texts against the harsher judgment 
of recent Sanskrit scholars. He judged as a philosopher, 
and they as grammarians. 

It would be difficult to say on what subject Baron 
Bunsen is not at home. But none is handled by him 
with more familiar mastery than that of Liturgies, 

Bunsens Biblical Researches. 91' 

ancient and modern. He has endeavoured to enlarge 
the meagre stores of the Lutheran Church by a collec- 
tion of evangelical songs and prayers.^ Eich in 
primitive models, yet adapted to Lutheran habits, 
this collection might be suggestive to any Noncon- 
formist congregations which desire to enrich or temper 
their devotions by the aid of common prayers. Even 
our own Church, though not likely to recast her ritual 
in a foreign mould, might observe with profit the greater 
calmness and harmony of the older forms, as com- 
pared with the amplifications, which she has in some 
cases adopted. Our Litany is hardly equal to its germ. 
Nor do our collects exhaust available stores. Yet if 
it be one great test of a theology, that it shall bear to 
be prayed, our author has hardly satisfied it. Either 
reverence, or deference, may have prevented him from 
bringing his prayers into entire harmony with his 
criticisms ; or it may be that a discrepance, which we 
should constantly diminish, is likely to remain between 
our feelings and our logical necessities. It is not the 
less certain, that some reconsideration of the polemical 
element in our Liturgy, as of the harder scholasticism 
in our theology, would be the natural offspring of any 
age of research in wdiich Christianity was free ; and if 
this, as seems but too probable, is to be much longer 
denied us, the consequence must be a lessening of moral 
strength within our pale, and an accession to influences 
which will not always be friendly. But to estrange our 
doctrinal teaching from the convictions, and our prac- 
tical administration from the influence, of a Protestant 
Laity, are parts of one policy, and that not always a 
blind one. Nor is doctrinal narrowness of view without 
practical counterpart in the rigidity which excludes the 
breath of prayer from our churches for six days in seven, 
ratber than permit a clergyman to select such portions 
as devotion suggests, and average strength permits. 

Gesang- unci Gebet-huch. Hamburg. 1846, 

92 Bunsens Biblical Researches. 

It did not fall witliin the scope of this Essay to 
define the extent of its illustrious subject's obligations 
(which he would no doubt largely acknowledge) to 
contemporary scholars, such as Mr. Birch, or others. 
Nor was it necessary to touch questions of eth- 
nology and politics which might be raised by those 
who value Germanism so far as it is human, rather 
than so far as it is German. Sclavonians might 
notice the scanty acknowledgment of the vast con- 
tributions of their race to the intellectual wealth 
of Germany.' Celtic scholars might remark that 
triumph in a discovery which has yet to be proved, 
regarding the law of initial mutations in their language, 
is premature." Nor would they assent to our author's 
ethical description of their race. So, when he asks : 
' How long shall we bear this fiction of an external 
revelation,' — that is, of one violating the heart and 
conscience, instead of expressing itself through them — 
or when he says, ' All this is delusion for those who 
believe it ; but what is it in the mouths of those who 
teach it ?' — or when he exclaims, ' Oh the fools ! who, 
if they do see the imminent perils of this age, think 
to ward them off by narrow-minded persecution !' 
and when he repeats, ' Is it not time, in truth, to 
withdraw the veil from our misery ? to tear off the 
mask from hypocrisy, and destroy that sham which is 
undermining all real ground under our feet ? to point 
out the dangers which surround, nay, threaten already 
to engulf us?' — there will be some who think his 
lano-uao^e too vehement for cfood taste. Others will 
think burning words needed by the disease of our time. 
These will not quarrel on points of taste with a man 

' One mij^ht ask, whether the experience of our two latest wars encourages 
our looking to Germany lor any unselfish sympathy with the rights of 
nations ? Or has she not rather earned the curse of Meroz ^ 

^ So the vaunted discovery of Professor Zeuss, deriving Cymey from an 
imaginary word ' Combroges,' is against the testimony of the best Greek 
geographers. . 

Bunsens Biblical Besearches. 93 

who in our darkest perplexity has reared again the 
banner of truth, and uttered thoughts which give 
courage to the weak, and sight to the blind. If Pro- 
testant Europe is to escape those shadows of the 
twelfth century, which with ominous recurrence are 
closing round us, to Baron Bunsen will belong a fore- 
most place among the champions of light and right. 
Any points disputable or partially erroneous, which 
may be discovered in his many works, are as dust in 
the balance, compared with the mass of solid learning, 
and the elevating influence of a noble and Christian 
spirit. Those who have assailed his doubtful points 
are equally opposed to his strong ones. Our own 
testimony is, where we have been best able to follow 
him, we have generally found most reason to agree 
with him. But our little survey has not traversed 
his vast field, nor our plummet sounded his depth. 

Bunsen, with voice, like sound of trumpet born, 

Conscious of strength, and confidently bold, 
Well feign the sons of Loyola the scorn 

Which from thy books would scare their startled fold- 
To thee our Earth disclosed her pvn-ple morn, 
And Time his long-lost centuries unrolled ; 
Far Realms unveiled the mystery of their Tongue; 
Thou all their garlands on the Ceoss hast hung. 

My lips but ill could frame thy Lutheran speech, 
Nor suits thy Teuton vaunt our British pride — 

But ah ! not dead my soul to giant reach, 
That envious Eld's vast interval defied ; 

And when those fables strange, our hirelings teach, 
I saw by genuine learning cast aside. 

Even like Linnaius kneeling on the sod. 

For faith from falsehood severed, thank I GOD. 


THE investigation of that important and extensive 
subject which includes what have been usually 
designated as ' The Evidences of Eevelation/ has pre- 
scriptively occupied a considerable space in the field 
of theological literature, especially as cultivated in 
England. There is scarcely one, perhaps, of our more 
eminent divines who has not in a greater or less de- 
gree distinguished himself in this department, and 
scarcely an aspirant for theological distinction who 
has not thought it one of the surest paths to that 
eminence, combining so many and varied motives of 
ambition, to come forward as a champion in this 
arena. At the present day it might be supposed the 
discussion of such a subject, taken up as it has been 
successively in all its conceivable different bearings, 
must be nearly exhausted. It must, however, be 
borne in mind, that, unlike the essential doctrines of 
Christianity, ' the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,' 
these external accessories constitute a subject which 
of necessity is perpetually taking somewhat at least of 
a new form, with the successive phases of opinion and 
knowledge. And it thus becomes not an unsatisfactory 
nor unimportant object, from time to time, to review the 
condition in which the discussion stands, and to com- 
ment on the peculiar features which at any particular 
epoch it most prominently presents, as indicative of 
strength or weakness — of the advance and security of 
the cause — if, in accordance with the real progress of 
enlightenment, its advocates have had the wisdom to 
rescind what better information showed defective, and 

Study of the Evidences of ClLnstianity, 95 , 

to substitute views in accordance with higher know- 
ledge ; or, on the other hand, inevitable symptoms 
of weakness and inefficiency, if such salutary cautions 
have been neglected. To offer some general remarks 
of this kind on the existing state of these discussions 
will be the object of the present Essay. 

Before proceeding to the main question we may, 
however, properly premise a brief reflection on the 
spirit and temper in which it should be discussed. 
In writings on these subjects it must be. confessed 
we too often find indications of a polemical acri- 
mony, where a calm discussion of arguments 
would be more becoming as well as more con- 
sistent with the proposed object ; the too fre- 
quent assumption of the part of the special partisan 
and ingenious advocate, when the character to be 
sustained should be rather that of the unbiassed 
judye ; too much of hasty and captious objection 
on the one hand, or of settled and inveterate pre- 
judice on the other; too strong a tendency not 
fairly to appreciate, or even to keep out of sight, the 
broader features of the main question, in the eager- 
ness to single out particular salient points for attack ; 
too ready a disposition to triumph in lesser details, 
rather than steadily to grasp more comprehensive prin- 
ciples, and leave minor difficulties to await their solu- 
tion, and to regard this or that particular argument as 
if the entire credit of the cause were staked upon it. 

And if on the one side there is often a just com- 
plaint that objections are urged in a manner and tone 
offensive to religious feeling and conscientious prepos- 
sessions, which are, at least, entitled to respectful 
consideration; so, on the other, there is too often 
evinced a want of sympathy with the difficulties 
which many so seriously feel in admitting the alleged 
evidences, and which many habitual believers do not 
appreciate, perhaps because they have never thought 
or inquired deeply on the subject ; or what is more, 
have believed it wrong and impious to do so. 

96 Study of the Evidences of Christianity, 

Any appeal to argument must imply perfect free- 
dom of conviction. It is a palpable absurdity to put 
reasons before a man, and yet wish to compel him to 
adopt them, or to anathematize him if he find them 
unconvincing ; to repudiate him as an unbeliever, 
because he is careful to find satisfactory grounds for 
his belief; or to denounce him as a sceptic, because he 
is scrupulous to discriminate the truth ; to assert that 
his honest doubts evince a moral obliquity ; in a word, 
that he is no judge of his own mind ; while it is 
obviously implied that his instructor is so — or, in 
other words, is omniscient and infallible. When 
serious difficulties have been felt and acknowledged 
on any important subject, and a writer undertakes 
the task of endeavouring to obviate them, it is but a 
fair demand that, if the reader be one of those who 
do not feel the difficulties, or do not need or appreciate 
any further argument to enlighten or support his 
belief, he should not cavil at the introduction of 
topics, which may be valuable to others, though need- 
less, or distasteful to himself. Such persons are in 
no way called upon to enter into the discussion, but 
they are unfair if they accuse those who do so of 
agitating questions of whose existence tliey have been 
unconscious ; and of unsettling men's minds, because 
their own prepossessions have been long settled, and 
they do not perceive the difficulties of others, which it 
is the very aim of such discussion to remove. 

Perhaps most of the various parties who have at all 
engaged in the discussion of these subjects are agreed 
in admitting^ at least some distinction between the in- 
fluences of feeling and those of reason ; the impressions 
of conscience and the deductions of intellect ; the dicta- 
tions of moral and religious sense, and the conclusions 
from evidence ; in reference especially to the questions 
agitated as to the grounds of belief in Divine revela- 
tion. Indeed, when we take into account the nature 
of the objects considered, the distinction is manifest 

Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 97 

and undeniable ; when a reference is made to matters 
of external fad (insisted on as such) it is obvious that 
reason and intellect can alone be the proper judges of 
the evidence of such flicts. When, on the other hand, 
the question may be as to points of moral or religious 
doctrine, it is equally clear, other and higher grounds 
of judgment and conviction must be appealed to. 

In the questions now under consideration, Ijoth 
classes of arguments are usually involved. It is the 
professed principle of at least a large section of those 
who discuss the subject, that the cjuestion is materially 
connected with the truth and evidence of certain 
external alleged historical facts ; while again, all will 
admit that the most essential and vital portion of 
the inquiry refers to matters of a higher — of a more 
internal, moral, and spiritual kind. 

Eut while this distinction is clearly implied and 
even professedly acknowledged by the disputants, it 
is worthy of careful remark, how extensively it is 
overlooked and kept out of sight in practice ; how 
commonly — ^almost universally, we find writers and 
reasoners taking up the question, even with much 
ability and eloquence, and arguing it out sometimes 
on the one, sometimes on the other ground, forgetful 
of their own professions, and in a way often quite 
inconsistent with them. 

Thus we continually find the professed advocates of 
an external revelation and historical evidence, never- 
theless making their appeal to conscience and feelino-, 
and decrying the exercise of reason ; and charging 
those who find critical objections in the evidence with 
spiritual blindness and moral perversity ; and on the 
other hand we observe the professed upholders of 
fiiith and internal conviction as the only sound basis 
of religion, nevertheless regarding the external flicts 
as not less essential truth which it would be profane 
to question. It often seems to be rather the want of 
clear apprehension in the first instance of the distinct 



98 Studij of the IJvidenccs of Clinstiamty. 

kind and character of such inquiries, when on the one 
side directed to the abstract question of evidence, and 
when on the other pointing to i\\Q: practical object of 
addressing the moral and religious feelings and affec- 
tions, which causes so many writers on these subjects 
to betray an inconsistency between their professed 
purjmse and their mode of carrying it out. They avow 
matter-of-fact inquiry — a question of the critical evi- 
dence for alleged events — yet they pursue it as if it 
Avere an appeal to moral sentiments ; in which case it 
would be a virtue to assent, and a crime to deny : if it 
be the one, it should not be proposed as the other. 

Thus it is the common language of orthodox writings 
and discourses to advise the believer, when objections 
or difficulties arise, not to attempt to offer a precise 
answer, or to argue the point, but rather to look at 
the whole subject as of a kind which ought to be exempt 
from critical scrutiny and be regarded with a submis- 
sion of judgment, in the spirit of humility and faith. 
This advice may be very just in reference to practical 
impressions ; yet if the question be one (as is so much 
insisted on) of external facts, it amounts to neither 
more nor less than a tacit surrender of the claims of 
external evidence and historical reality. We are told 
that we ought to investigate such high questions 
rather with our affections than with our logic, and 
approach them rather with good dispositions and 
right motives, and with a desire to find the doctrine 
true ; and thus shall discover the real assurance of its 
truth in obeying it ; suggestions which, however good 
in a woral 2i\iA practical sense, are surely inapplicable if 
it be made a question oi facts. 

If we were inquiring into historical evidence in D.ny 
other case (suppose e.ff. of Caesar's landing in Britain) it 
would be little to the purpose to be told that we must 
look at the case through our desires rather than our 
reason, and exercise a believing disposition rather than 
rashly scrutinize testimony by critical cavils. Those 

Study of the Evidences of ChndlanUy. 99 

who speak thus on the question of rehgious beHef, in 
fact shift the basis of all belief from the alleged evidence 
of facts to the influence of an internal persuasion ; 
they virtually give up the evidential proof so strongly 
insisted on, and confess that the whole is, after all, a 
mere matter of feeling and sentiment, just as much as 
those to whose views they so greatly object as openly 
avowing the very same thing. 

We find certain forms of expression commonly 
stereotyped among a very large class of Divines, 
whenever a critical difficulty or a sceptical exception 
is urged, which are very significant as to the pre- 
valent view of religious evidence. Their reply is 
always of this tenor : ' These are not subjects on 
which you can expect demonstrative evidence ; you 
must be satisfied to accept such general proof or 
probability as the nature of the question allows : you 
must not inquire too curiously into these things ; it is 
sufficient that we have a general moral evidence of the 
doctrines ; exact critical discussion will always rake 
up difficulties, to which perhaps no satisfactory answer 
can be at once given. A precise sceptical caviller will 
always find new objections as soon as the first are 
refuted. It is in vain to seek to convince reason 
unless the conscience and the will be first well-disposed 
to accept the truth.' Such is the constant language 
of orthodox theologians. What is it but a mere trans- 
lation into other phraseology, of the very assertions of 
the sceptical transcendentalist ? 

Indeed, wiJi many who take up these questions, 
they are almost avowedl}^ placed on the ground of 
practical expediency rather than of abstract truth. 
Good and earnest men become alarmed for the 
dangerous consequences they think likely to result 
from certain speculations on these subjects, and 
thence in arguing against them, are led to assume 
a tone of superiority, as the guardians of virtue 
and censors of right, rather than as unprejudiced in- 

100 Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 

quirers into the matters-of-fact on which, nevertheless, 
they professedly make the case rest. And thus a dis- 
position has been encouraged to regard any such 
question as one of riylit or wrong, rather than one of 
truth or error : to treat all objections as profane, and 
to discard exceptions unanswered as shocking and 

If indeed the discussion were carried on upon the 
professed ground of spiritual impression and religious 
feeling, there would be a consistency in such a course ; 
but when evidential arguments are avowedly addressed 
to the intellect, it is especially preposterous to shift the 
ground, and charge the rejection of them on luoral 
motives ; while those who impute such bad motives 
fairly expose themselves to the retort, that their own 
belief may be dictated by other considerations than 
the love of truth. 

Again, in such inquiries there is another material 
distinction very commonly lost sight of; the diffe- 
rence between discussing the truth of a conclusion, or 
opinion, and the mode or means of arriving at it ; 
or the arguments by which it is supported. Either 
may clearly be impugned or upheld without impli- 
cating the other. We may have the best evidence, 
but draw a wrong conclusion from it ; or we may 
support an incontestible truth by very fallacious 

The present discussion is not intended to be of a 
controversial kind, it is purely contemphitive and 
theoretical ; it is rather directed to a calm and* un- 
prejudiced survey of the various opinions and argu- 
ments adduced, whatever may be their ulterior ten- 
dency, on these important questions ; and to the 
attempt to state, analyse, and estimate them just as 
they may seem really conducive to the high object 
professedly in view. 

The idea of a positive external Divine revelatioii ot 
some kind has formed the very basis of all hitherto 

StuJj/ of the Ecidciices of Ckristianitij. 101 

received systems of Christian belief. The Romanist 
indeed reerards that revelation as of the nature of a 
standing oracle acces^Me m the living voice of the 
Church ; which being infallible, of course sufficiently 
accredits all the doctrines it announces, and consti- 
tutes them Divine. A more modified view has pre- 
vailed among a considerable section of Anglican theo- 
logians, who ground their faith on the same principles 
of Church authority, divested of its divine and infal- 
lible character. ]\Iost Protestants, with more or less 
difference of meaning, profess to regard revelation as 
once for all announced, long since finally closed, per- 
manently recorded, and accessible only in the written 
Divine word contained in the Scriptures. And the 
discussion with those outside the pale of belief has 
been entirely one as to the validity of those external 
marks and attestations by which the truth of the 
alleged fact of such communication of the Divine will, 
was held to be substantiated. 

The scope and character of the various discussions 
raised on 'the evidences of religion,' have varied much 
in different ag-es, foUowino- of course both the view 
adopted of revelation itself, the nature of the ob- 
jections which for the time seemed most prominent, 
or most necessary to be combated, and stamped wdth 
the peculiar intellectual character, and reasoning tone, 
of the age to which they belonged. 

The early apologists were rather defenders of the 
Christian cause generall}^ ; but when they entered on 
evidential topics, naturally did so rather in accordance 
with the prevalent modes of thought, than wdth wdiat 
would now be deemed a philosophic investigation of 
alleged facts and critical appreciation of testimony 
in support of them. 

In subsequent ages, as the increasing claims of 
infallible Church authority gained ground, to discuss 
evidence became superfluous, and even dangerous and 
impious ; accordingly, of this branch of theological 

102 Study of the Evidences of Cliristianiti/. 

literature (unless in the most entire subjection to 
ecclesiastical dictation) the medieval church presented 
hardly any specimens. 

It was not perhaps till the 15th century, that any 
works bearing the character of what are now called 
treatises on ' the evidences' appeared ; and these were 
probably elicited by the sceptical spirit which had 
already begun to show itself, arising out of the sub- 
tilties of the schoolmen.^ 

But in modern times, and under Protestant aus- 
pices, a greater disposition to follow up this kind of 
discussion has naturally been developed. The sterner 
-f genius of Protestantism required definition, argument, 
and proof, where tlie ancient church had been content 
to impress by the claims of authority, veneration, and 
prescription, and thus left the conception of truth to 
take the form of a mere impression of devotional feel- 
ing or exalted imagination. 

Protestantism sought something more definite and 
substantial, and its demands were seconded and sup- 
ported, more especially by the spirit of metaphysical 
reasoning which so widely extended itself in the 17th 
century, even into the domains of theology ; and di- 
vines, stirred up by the allegations of the Deists, aimed 
at formal refutations of their objections, b}^ drawing out 
the idea and the proofs of revelation into systematic 
propositions supported by logical arguments. In that 
and the subsequent period the same general style of 
argument on these topics prevailed among the advocates 
of the Christian cause. The appeal was mainly to the 
miracles of the Gospels, and here it was contended we 
Avant merely the same testimony of ej^e-witnesses 
which would suffice to substantiate any ordinary 
matter of fact : accordingl}^, the narratives were to be 
traced to writers at the time, who were either them- 

^ Several such treatises are enumerated and described by Eichhorn. See 
Hallam's Lit. of Europe, i. p. 190- 

Stud^ of the E aide noes of Christian Ui/. 103 

selves eye-witnesses, or recorded the testimony of 
those who were so, and the direct transmission of the 
evidence being thus established, everything was held 
to be demonstrated. If any antecedent question was 
raised, a brief reference to the Divine Omnipotence 
to work the miracles, and to the Divine goodness to 
vouchsafe the revelation and confirm it by such proofs, 
was all that could be required to silence sceptical 

It is true, indeed, that some consideration of the 
internal evidence derived from the excellence of the 
doctrines and morality of the Grospel was allowed to 
enter the discussion, but it formed only a subordinate 
branch of the evidences of Christianity. The main 
and essential point was always the consideration of 
external facts, and the attestations of testimony 
offered in support of them. Assuming Christianity to 
be essentially connected with certain outward and f 
sensible events, the main thing to be inquired into and 
established, was the historical evidence of those events, 
and the genuineness of the records of them ; if this 
were satisfactorily made out, then it was considered 
the object was accomplished. The external facts 
simpl}^ substantiated, the intrinsic doctrines and 
declarations of the Gospel must by necessary conse- 
quence be Divine truths. 

If we compare the general tone, character, and pre- 
tensions of those works which, in our schools and 
colleges, have been regarded as the standard autho- 
rities on the subject of 'the evidences,' we must 
acknowledge a great change in the taste or opinions 
of the times from the commencement of the last 
century to the present day ; wdiich has led the 
student to turn from the erudite folios of Jackson and 
Stillingfleet, or the more condensed arguments of 
Clarke On the Attributes, Grotius de Veritate, and 
Leslie's Method loith the Deists, the universal text- 
books of a past generation, to the writings of Lardner 


104 Studij of the Evidences of Chrldianity. 

and Paley ; the latter of whom, in the beginning of 
the present century, reigned supreme, the acknow- 
ledged champion of revelation, and the head of a 
school to which numerous others, as Campbell, 
Watson, and Douglas, contributed their labours. 
But more recently, these authors have been in an 
eminent degree superseded, by a recurrence to the 
once comparatively neglected resources furnished by 
Bishop Butler; of so much less formal, technical, 
and positive a kind, yet offering wider and more 
philosophical views of the subject ; still, however, not 
supplyiug altogether that comprehensive discussion 
which is adapted to the peculiar tone and character of 
thought and existing state of knowledge in our own 

The state of opinion and information in different 
ages is peculiarly shown in the tone and character 
of those discussions which have continually arisen, 
affecting the grounds of religious belief. The particu- 
lar species of difficulty or objection in the reception 
of Christianity, and especially cf its external manifes- 
tations, which have been found most formidable, have 
varied greatly in different ages according to the pre- 
valent modes of thought and the character of the do- 
minant philosophy. Thus the dilhculties with re- 
spect to miraculous evidence in particular, will neces- 
sarily be very differently viewed in different stages of 
philosophical and physical information. Difficulties 
in the idea of suspensions of natural laws, in former 
ages were not at all felt, canvassed, or thought of. 
But in later times they have assumed a much deeper 
importance. In an earlier period of our theological 
literature, the critical investigation of the question of 
'miracles was a point scarcely at all appreciated. The 
attacks of the Deists of the lytli and early part of 
the i8tli century were almost wholly directed to other 
points. But the speculations of Woolston, and still 
more the subsequent influence of the celebrated Essay 

Stud^ of fJie Eoide})ces of Cliristianifi/. 105 

of Hume, liad the effect of directing the attention 
of divines more pointedly to the precise topic of mi- 
raculous evidence ; and to these causes was added the 
agitation of the question of the ecclesiastical miracles, 
giving rise to the semi-sceptical discussions of Middle- 
ton, which called forth a more exact spirit of examina- 
tion into such distinctions as were needed to preserve 
the miracles of the Gospels from the criticisms applied 
to those of the Church. This distinction, in fact, in- 
volves a large part of the entire question ; and to- 
wards marking it out effectually, various precautionary 
rules and principles were laid down by several writers. 

Thus, Bishop Warburton suggested as a criterion 
the necessity of the miracles to the ends of the dis- 
pensation,^ which he conceived answered the demands 
of Middleton. Bishop Douglas made it the test — 
to connect miracles with inspiration in those who 
wrought them ; this, he thought, would exclude the 
miracles of the Church.^ But it was long since per- 
ceived that the argument from necessity of miracles isj 
at best a very hazardous one, since it implies the y 
presumption of constituting ourselves judges of such 
necessity, and admits the fair objection — when were 
miracles more needed than at the present day, to 
indicate the truth amid manifold error, or to pro- 
pagate the faith ? And again, in the other case, hov/ 
is the inspiration to be ascertained apart from the 
miracles ? or, if it be, what is the use of the miracles ? 

In fact, in proportion as external evidence to 
facts is made the professed demand, it follows that 
we can only recur to those grounds and rules by 
which the intellect always proceeds in the satis- 
factory investigation of any questions of fact and 
evidence, especially those of pkysical phenomena. 
By an adherence to those great principles on which 

^ Div. Leg. ix. 5. ^ Criterion, pp. 239, 241. 

106 Study of the Evidences of Christlaniti/. 

all knowledge is acquired — by a reference to the 
fixed laws of belief, and our convictions of esta- 
blished order and analogy — we estimate the credi- 
bility of alleged events and the value of testimony, 
and weigh them more carefully in proportion as the 
matter may appear of greater moment or difficulty. 

In appreciating the evidence for ani/ events of a 
striking or wonderful kind, we must bear in mind the 
extreme difficulty which always occurs in eliciting the 
truth, dependent not on the uncertainty in the trans- 
mission of testimony, but even in cases where we 
were ourselves witnesses, on the enormous influence 
exerted by our prepossessions previous to the event, 
and by the momentary impressions consequent upon 
it. We look at all events, through the medium of 
our prejudices, or even where we may have no pre- 
possessions, the more sudden and remarkable any oc- 
currence may be, the more unprepared we are to judge 
of it accurately or to view it calmly ; our after repre- 
sentations, especially of any extraordinary and strik- 
ing event, are always at the best mere recollections of 
our impressions, of ideas dictated by our emotions at 
the time by the surprise and astonishment which the 
suddenness and hurry of the occurrence did not allow 
us time to reduce to reason, or to correct by the sober 
standard of experience or philosophy. 

Questions of this kind are often perplexed for want 
of due attention to the laws of human thought and 
belief, and of due distinction in ideas and terms. The 
proj)osition ' that an event may be so incredible in- 
trinsically as to set aside any degree of testimony,' in 
no wa}^ ap])lies to or affects the honesty or veracity of 
that testimony, or the reality of the imjjressions on the 
minds of the witnesses, so far as it relates to the 
matter of sensiUe fact simply. It merely means this : 
that from the nature of our antecedent convictions, 
the probability of some kind of mistake or deception 
somewhere, though we know not ivhere, is greater than 

Sfiu/j/ of the Evidences of CJiridianify. 107 

the probability of the event really happening in the 
way and from the causes assigned. 

This of course turns on the general grounds of our 
antecedent convictions. The question agitated is not 
that of mere testimony, of its value, or of its failures. 
It refers to those antecedent considerations which must 
govern our entire view of the subject, and which being 
dependent on higher laws of belief, must be paramount 
to all attestation, or rather belong to a province dis- 
tinct from it. "WHiat is alleged is a case of the super- 
natural ; but no testimony can reach to the superna- 
tural ; testimony can apply only to apparent sensible 
facts ; testimony can only prove an extraordinary and 
perhaps inexplical^le occurrence or phenomenon : that 
it is due to supernatural causes is entirely de- 
pendent on the previous belief and assumptions of 
the parties. 

If at the present day any very extraordinary and 
unaccountable fact were exhibited before the eyes of 
an unbiassed, educated, well-informed individual, and 
supposing all suspicion of imposture put out of the 
question, his only conclusion would be that it was 
something he was unable at present to explain j and 
if at all versed in physical studies, he would not for 
an instant doubt either that it was really due to some 
natural cause, or that if properly recorded and exa- 
mined, it would at some future time receive its 
explanation by the advance of discovery. 

It is thus the prevalent conviction that at the pre- 
sent day miracles are not to be expected, and conse- 
quently alleged marvels are commonly discredited. 

But as exceptions proving the rule, it cannot be 
denied that amid the general scepticism, instances 
sometimes occur of particular persons and parties 
who, on peculiar grounds, firmly believe in the occur- 
rence of certain miracles even in our own times. But 
we invariably find that this is only in connexion with 
their own particular tenets, and restricted to the com- 

108 Stiidjj of the Evidences of Clirisilanity. 

munion to wliicli they are attached. Such manifesta- 
tions of course are believed to have a religious object, 
and afford to the votaries a strong confirmation of 
their belief, or are regarded as among the high privi- 
leges vouchsafed to an earnest faith. Yet even such 
persons, almost as a matter of course, utterly discredit 
all such wonders alleged as occurring within the pale 
of any religion except their own ; while those of other 
communions as unhesitatingly reject the belief in 

To take a single instance, we may refer to the 
alleged miraculous ' tongues' among the followers of 
the late Mr. Irving some years ago. It is not, and 
was not, a question of records or testimony, or fallibi- 
lity of witnesses, or exaggerated or fabulous narratives. 
At the time, the matter was closely scrutinized and 
inquired into, and many perfectly unprejudiced, and 
even sceptical persons, themselves witnessed the effects, 
and were fully convinced, as, indeed, were most candid 
inquirers at the time, that after all reasonable or 
possible allowance for the influence of delusion or 
imposture,^ beyond all question certain extraordinary 
manifestations did occur. But just as little as the 
mere fact could be disputed, did any sober-minded 
jDcrson, except those immediately interested, or influenced 
by 2^ccidiar vieios, for a moment believe those effects to 
be miracidoiis. Even granting that they could not be 
explained by any known form of nervous affection, or 
on the like physiological grounds, still that the}'" were 
in some way to be ascribed to natural causes, as yet 
perhaps little understood, was what no one of ordi- 
narily cultivated mind, or dispassionate judgment, ever 

On such questions we can only hope to form just 
and legitimate conclusions from an extended and un- 
prejudiced study of the laws and phenomena of the 
natural world. The entire range of the inductive 
philosophy is at once based upon, and in every 

Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 109 

instance tends to confirm, by immense accumula- 
tion of evidence, the grand truth of the universal 
order and constancy of natural causes, as a primary 
law of belief; so strongly entertained and fixed in 
the raind of every truly inductive inquirer, that he 
cannot even conceive the possibility of its failure. 
Yet v^^e sometimes hear language of a different kind. 
There are still some who dwell on the idea of Spinoza, 
and contend that it is idle to object to miracles as 
violations of natural laws, because we know not the 
extent of nature ; that all inexplicable phenomena 
are, in fact, miracles, or at any rate, mysteries ; that 
we are surrounded by miracles in nature, and on all 
sides encounter phenomena which baffle our attempts 
at explanation, and limit the powers of scientific in- 
vestigation ; phenomena whose causes or nature we are 
not, and probably never shall be, able to explain. 

Such are the arguments of those who have failed 
to grasp the positive scientific idea of the power of 
the inductive philosophy, or the order of nature. The 
boundaries of nature exist only where our present 
knowledge places them ; the discoveries of to-morrow 
will alter and enlarge them. The inevitable progress 
of research must, within a longer or shorter period, 
unravel all that seems most marvellous, and what is 
at present least understood will become as familiarly 
known to the science of the future, as those points 
which a few centuries ago were involved in equal 
obscurity, but are now thoroughly understood. 

None of these, or the like instances, are at all of 
the same kind, or have any characteristics in common 
with the idea of what is implied by the term ' miracle,' 
which is asserted to mean something at variance with 
nature and law ; there is not the slightest analogy 
between an unknown or inexplicable phenomenon, and 
a supposed suspension of a known law : even an ex- 
ceptional case of a known law is included in some 
larger law. Arbitrary interposition is wholly different 

110 Study of the Evidences of Christianiti/. 

in kind ; no argument from tlie one can app]}'^ to the 

The enlarged critical and inductive study of the 
natural world, cannot but tend powerfully to evince 
the inconceivableness of imagined interruptions of 
natural order, or supposed suspensions of the laws of 
matter, and of that vast series of dependent causation 
which constitutes the legitimate field for the investi- 
gation of science, whose constancy is the sole warrant 
for its generalizations, while it forms the substantial 
basis for the grand conclusions of natural theology. 
Such would be the grounds on which our convictions 
would be regulated as to marvellous events at t/ie present 
day ; such the rules which we should apply to the like 
cases narrated in ordinary history. 

But though, perhaps, the more general admission 
at the present day of critical principles in the study of 
history, as well as the extension of physical knowledge, 
has done something to diffuse among the better in- 
formed class more enlightened notions on this subject, 
taken abstractedly, yet they may be still much at a 
loss to apply such principles in all cases : and readily 
conceive that there are possible instances in which 
large exceptions must be made. 

The above remarks may be admitted in respect to 
events at the present day and those narrated in ordinary 
history ; but it will be said there may be, and there 
are, cases which are 7iot like those of the present times 
nor of ordinary history. 

Thus, if we attempt any uncompromising, rigid 
scrutiny of the Christian miracles, on the same grounds 
on which we should investigate any ordinary narrative 
of the supernatural or marvellous, we are stopped hj 
tlie admonition not to make an irreverent and pro- 
iane intrusion into what ought to be held sacred and 
exempt from such unhallowed criticism of human 

Yet the champions of the ' Evidences' of Chris- 
tianity have professedly rested the discussion of the 

study of the Evidences of Cliridlanity. Ill 

miracles of tlie New Testament on tlie ground of 
precise evidence of witnesses, insisting on tlie liis- 
torical character of the Gospel records, and urging the 
investigation of the truth of the facts on the strict 
principles of criticism, as they would be applied to any 
other historical narrative. On these grounds, it would 
seem impossible to exempt the miraculous parts of 
those narratives, from such considerations as those 
which must be resorted to in regard to marvellous or 
supposed supernatural events in general. Yet there 
seems an unwillingness to concede the propriety of 
such examination, and a disposition to regard this as 
altogether an ejcceptlonal case. But in proportion as 
it is so regarded, it must be remembered its strictly 
historical character is forfeited, or at least tampered 
with ; and those who would shield it from the criti- 
cisms to which history and fact are necessarily ame- 
nable, cannot in consistency be offended at the alter- 
native involved, of a more or less mythical interpre- 

In history generally our attention is often called to 
narratives of the marvellous : and there is a sense in 
which they may be viewed with reference to its general 
purport and in connexion with those influences on 
human nature which play so conspicuous a part in 
many events. Thus it has been well remarked by 
Dean Milraan — ' History to be true must condescend 
to speak the language of legend ; the belief of the 
times is part of the record of the times ; and though 
there may occur what may baffle its more calm and 
searching philosophy, it must not disdain that whicli 
was the primal, almost universal motive of human life.'' 

Yet in a more general point of view, when we con- 
sider the strict office of the critical historian, it is 
obvious that such cases are fair subjects of analysis, 
conducted with the view of ascertaining their real 
relation to nature and fact. 

^ Latin Christianity, vol. i. p. 388. 

112 Sfuclj/ of tlte Evidences of Cluistianity. 

From tlie general maxim that all history is open to 
criticism as to its grounds of evidence, no professed 
Idsiory can be exempt without forfeiting its hisforical 
cliaracter ; and in its contents, what is properly 
historical, is, on the same grounds, fairly to be dis- 
tinguished from what may appear to be introduced 
on other authority and with other objects. Thus, the 
general credit of an historical narrative does not exclude 
the distinct scrutiny into any statements of a super- 
natural kind which it may contain ; nor supersede the 
careful estimation of the value of the testimony on 
which they rest — the directness of its transmission from 
eye-witnesses, as well as the possibility of misconcep- 
tion of its tenor, or of our not being in possession of 
all the circumstances on which a correct judgment can 
be formed. 

It must, however, be confessed that the propriety 
of such dispassionate examination is too little appre- 
ciated, or the fairness of weighing well the impro- 
babilities on one side, against possible openings to 
misapprehension on the other. 

The nature of the laws of all human belief, and the 
broader grounds of probability and credibility of events, 
have been too little investigated, and the great extent 
to which all testimony must be modified by antecedent 
credibility as determined by such general laws, too little 
commonly understood to be readily applied or allowed. 

Formerly (as before observed) there was no question 
as to general credibility. But in later times the 
most orthodox seem to assume that interposition 
would be (jeneralli/ incredible ; yet endeavour to lay 
down rules and criteria by which it may be rendered 
probable, in cases of great emergency. Miracles were 
formerly the ride, latterly the exception.. 

The arguments of Middleton and others, all assume 
the antecedent incredibility of miracles in general, in 
order to draw more precisely the distinction that in'« 
certain cases of a very special nature that improbability 

Stiidij of the Evidences of Christ ianifi/. 113 

may be removed, as in the case of authenticating a 
revelation. Locke^ expressly contends that it is the 
very extraordinary^ nature of such an emergency which 
renders an extraordinary interposition requisite and 
therefore credible. 

The belief in Divine interposition must be essen- 
tially dependent on what we 2^remously admit or 
believe with respect to the Divine attributes. It 
was formerly argued that every Tlieist must admit 
the credibility of miracles ; but this it is now seen, 
depends on the nature and det/ree of his Theism, 
which may vary through many shades of opinion. 
It depends, in fact, on the precise view taken of the 
Divine attributes ; such, of course, as is attainable 
prior to our admission of revelation, or we fall into an 
argument in a vicious circle. The older writers on 
natural theology, indeed, have professed to deduce 
very exact conclusions as to the Divine perfections, 
especially Omnipotence ; conclusions which, according 
to the physical argument already referred to, appear 
carried beyond those limits to which reason or science 
are competent to lead us ; while, in fact, all our higher 
and more precise ideas of the Divine perfections are 
reall}^ derived from that verj^ revelation, whose evidence 
is the point in question. The Divine Omnipotence is 
entirely an inference from the language of the Bible, 
adopted on the assumjjtion of a belief in revelation. 
That ' with God nothing is impossible,' is the very 
declaration of Scripture ; yet on this the whole belief 
in miracles is built, and thus, with the man}^, that 
belief is wholly the result, not the antecedent of faith. 

But were these views of the Divine attributes, on 
the other hand, ever so well established, it must be 
considered that the Theistic argument requires to be 
applied with much caution ; since most of those who 
have adopted such, theories of the Divine perfections 

1 Essay, Book iv. cli. xvi. § 13. 

114 Study of the Evidences of ChnstianUy. 

on abstract grounds, have made them the basis of a 
precisely opposite belief, rejecting miracles altogether; 
on the plea, that our ideas of the Divine perfections 
must directly discredit the notion of occasional inter- 
position ; that it is derogatory to the idea of Infinite 
power and wisdom, to suppose an order of things so 
imperfectly established that it must be occasionally 
interrupted and violated when the necessity of the 
case compelled, as the emergency of a revelation was 
imagined to do. All such Theistic reasonings, in 
fact, if pushed to their consequences, must lead to a 
denial of all active operation of the Deity whatever ; 
as inconsistent with unchangeable, infinite perfection.^ 
Such are the arguments of Theodore Park er,^ who denies 
miracles because ' everywhere I find law the constant 
mode of operation of an i-npnite God, or that of Weg- 
scheider,^ that the belief in miracles is irreconcileable 
witli the idea of an eternal God consistent loith himself, &c. 

Paley's grand resource is ' once believe in a Grod, and 
all is easy.' Now, no men have evinced a more deep- 
seated and devout belief in the Divine perfections than 
the writers just named, or others differing from them by 
various shades of opinion, as the late J. Sterling, Mr. 
Emerson, and Professor F. W. Newman. Yet these 
writers have agreed in the inference that the entire view 
of Theistic principles, in their highest spiritual purity, 
is utterly at variance with all conception of suspensions 
of the laws of nature, or with the idea of any kind of 
external manifestation addressed to the senses, as over- 
ruling the higher, and, as they conceive, sole worthy and 
fittino', convictions of moral senseandrelio-ious intuition. 

We here speak impartially and, disinterestedly, since 
we are far from agreeing in their reasonings, or even 

^ See Mansel, Bampt. Led. p. 185. 

^ Theism, &c. p. 263, comp. p. 223. 
3 ' Persuasio de supernaturali et iniraculossa eademque immediata Dei 
revelatione, baud bene conciliari videtur cum idea Dei jeterni, semper 
sibi constantis, &c.' — Wegscbeider, Instit. Theol. § 12. 

StiaJj/ of the Evidences of CJirislianif^. 115 

in their first principles. But we think it deeply incum- 
bent on all who would fairly reason out the case of 
miraculous evidence at the present day, to give a full 
and patient discussion to this entire class of arguments 
which now command so many adherents. 

In advancing from the argument/or miracles to the 
argument /y'<9/// miracles ; it should, in the first instance, 
be considered that the evidential force of miracles (to 
whatever it may amount) is wholly relative to the 
apprehensions of the parties addressed. 

Thus, in an ' evidential ' point of view, it by no 
means follows, supposing we at this day were able 
to explain what in an ignorant age was regarded as 
a miracle, that therefore that event was not equally 
evidential to those immediately addressed. Columbus's 
prediction of the eclipse to the native islanders was 
as true an argument to them as if the event had really 
been supernatural. 

It is a consideration adopted by some eminent 
divines that in the very language of the Grospels the 
distinction is always kept up between mere ' wonders ' 
{rtpaTo) and ' miracles' or ' signs' {arjinHa) ; that is to 
say, the latter were occurrences not viewed as mere 
matters of wonder or astonishment, but regarded as 
indications of other truths, specially adapted to con- 
vince those to whom they were addressed in tlie:r 
existing stage of enlightenment. 

Archbishop Whately, besides dwelling on this dis- 
tinction, argues that ' the apostles w^ould not only 
not have been believed but not even listened to, if 
they had not first roused mens attention by working, 
as we are told they did, special (remarkable) miracles.'^ 
(Acts xix. II.) 

Some have gone further, and have considered the 
application of miracles as little more than is expressed 
in the ancient proverb, ' %avnaTa /xwpotc' — which is 

^ Lessons on Evidences, vii. § 5. 

1 a 

116 Studj/ of (lie Evidences of ClinsiianUy. 

supposed to be nearly equivalent to the rebuke, 'an 
evil generation seeketh a sign, &c.'^ (Matt. xii. 38.) 

Schleiermaclier regards the miracles as onlyrelatively 
or apparently sucli, to the apprehensions of the age. 
By the Jews we know such manifestations, especially 
the power of liealiug, were held to constitute the dis- 
tinctive marks of the Messiah, according to the pro- 
phecies of their Scriptures. Signs of an improper or 
irrelevant kind were refused, and even those which 
were granted were not necessarily nor universally con- 
clusive. With some they were so, but with the many 
the case was diflerent. The Pharisees set down the 
miracles of Christ to the power of evil spirits ; and 
in other cases no conviction^ was produced, not even 
on the apostles.^ Even Nicodemus, notwithstanding 
his logical reasoning, was but half convinced. While 
Jesus himself, especially to His disciples in private, re- 
ferred to His works as only secondary and subsidiary 
to the higher evidence of His character and doctrine,'* 
which was so conspicuous and convincing even to His 
enemies as to draw forth the admission, ' Never man 
spake like this man.' 

The later Jews adopted the strange legend of the 
' SepJier Tohlelh YeJisu ' (Book of the Generation of 
Jesus), which describes His miracles substantially as 
in the Gospels, but says that he obtained his power 
by hiding himself in the Temple, and possessing him- 
self of the secret inefiable name, by virtue of which 
sucli wonders could be wrought.^ 

^ Letter and Spirit, by Rev. J. Wilson, 1852, p. 21. 

2 As e.g. John xi. 46; vi. 2-30 ; Matt. xii. 39. 

^ Matt. xvi. 9; Luke xxiv. 21-25. * John xiv. 11. 

* Orobio, a Jewish writer, quoted by Limborch {De Verit. p. 12-156), 
observes : — ' Non crediderunt Judrei non quia opera ilhi quic in Evanc^elio 
narrantur a Jesu facta esse negabant ; sed quia iis se persuaderi non sunt 
passi ut Jesum crederent Messiam.' Celsus ascribed the Cliristian mira- 
cles to magic (Origen cont. Cels. i. 38; ii. 9,) as Julian did those of 
St. Paul to superior knowledge of nature. (^/>. Ct/r. iii. 100.) The 
general charge of magic is noticed by Tertullian, Ap. 23. See also Dean 
Lyall, Frojiccdia rruphetica, 439. Neander, Hist. i. 67. 

Study of the Evidences of Christianiti/. 117 

All moral evidence must essentially liave respect to 
the parties to be convinced. * Signs' might be adapted 
peculiarly to the state of moral or intellectual progress "^ 
of one age, or one class of persons, and not be suited 
to that of others. With the contemporaries of Christ 
and the Apostles, it was not a question of testimony 
or credibility ; it was not the mere occurrence of what 
they all regarded as a supernatural event, as such, but*- 
the particular character to be assigned to it, which was 
the point in question. And it is to the entire dif- 
ference in the ideas, prepossessions, modes, and grounds 
of belief in those times that we may trace the reason 
why miracles, which would be incredible 7Wto, were not 
so in the age and under the circumstances in which 
they are stated to have occurred. 

The force and function of all moral evidence is 
nullified and destroyed if we seek to apply that kind < 
of argument which does not find a response in the 
previous views or impressions of the individual ad- 
dressed ; all evidential reasoning is essentially an 
adaptation to the conditions of mind and thought of 
the parties addressed, or it fails in its object. An 
evidential appeal which in a long past age was con- 
vincing as made to the state of knowledge in that age, 
might have not only no effect, but even an injurious 
tendency, if urged in the present, and referring to what 
is at variance with existing scientific conceptions ; just 
as the arguments of the present age would have been 
unintelligible to a former. 

In his earlier views of miracles Dr. J. H. Newman^ 
maintained (agreeing therein with Paulus and Eosen- , 
miiller,) that most of the Christian miracles could J 
only be evidential at the time they Avere wrought, and 
are not so at present, a view in which a religious 
writer of a very diff'erent school, Athanase Coquerel,^ 

^ Essay on Miracles, &c. p. 107. 

Christianity, &c. Davibou's tratisl. 1847, p. 226. 

118 Study of the Evidences of Cliristianity . 

seems to concur, alleging tliat they can avail onl}^ in 
founding a faith — not in preserving it. 

This was also the argument of several of the 
Eeformers, as Luther, Huss, and others^ have reason- 
ably contemplated the miracles as a part of the pecu- 
liarities of the first outward manifestation and deve- 
lopment of Christianity ; like all other portions of the 
Divine dispensations specially adapted to the age and 
the condition of those to whom they were immediately 
addressed : but restricted apparently to those ages, 
and, at any rate, not continued in the same form to 
subsequent times, when the application of them would 
be inappropriate. 

The force of the appeal to miracles must ever be 
^ essentially dependent on the preconceptions of the 
parties addressed. Yet even in an age, or among a 
people, entertaining an indiscriminate belief in the 
supernatural, the allegation of particular miracles as 
evidential may be altogether vain ; the very extent 
of their belief may render it ineffective in furnishing 
proofs to authenticate the communications of any 
teacher as a Divine message. The constant belief in 
the miraculous may neutralize all evidential distinc- 
tions which it may be attempted to deduce. Of this we 
have a striking instance on record, in the labours of 
the missionary, Henry Martyn, among the Persian 
Mahometans. They believed readily all that he told 
them of the Scripture miracles, but directly paralleled 
them by wonders of their own ; they were proof 
against any argument from the resurrection, because 
they held that their own Sheiks had the power of 
raising the dead. 

It is also stated that the later Jewish Eabbis, on 
the same plea that miracles were believed to be 
wrought by so many teachers, of the most different 
doctrines, denied their evidential force altogether.^ 

' See Seckendorf's Hist. Luther, iii. 633., 
2 For some instauces of this class of objections, see Dean Lyall's Tro- 
pcedia Prophetica, p. 437 et seq. 

Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 119 

By those wlio take a more enlarged survey of the 
subject, it cannot fail to be remarked how ditierent has 
been the spirit in which miracles were contemplated 
as they are exhibited to us in the earlier stages of 
ecclesiastical literature, from that in which they have 
been regarded in modern times ; and this especially 
in respect to that particular view which has so inti- 
mately (jonnected them with precise ' evidential argu- 
ments ;' and by a school of writers, of whom Paley 
may be taken as the type, and who regard them as 
the sole external proof and certificate of a Divine 

But at the present day this ' evidential' view of 
miracles as the sole or even the principal external 
attestation to the claims of a Divine revelation, is a , 
species of reasoning which appears to have lost ground, '■<' 
even among the most earnest advocates of Christi- 
anity. It is now generally admitted that Paley took 
too exclusive a view in asserting that we cannot con- 
ceive a revelation substantiated in any other way. 
And it has been even more directly asserted by some 
zealous supporters of Christian doctrine, that the 
external evidences are altogether inappropriate and 

Thus by a school of writers of the most highly 
orthodox pretensions, it is elaborately argued, to the 
effect, that revelation ought to be believed though 
destitute of strict evidence, either internal or external j V 
and though we neither see it nor know it.^ And again, 
' We must be as sure that the Bishop is Christ's 
appointed representative, as if we actually saw him 
work miracles as St. Peter and St. Paul did.'^ An- 
other writer of the same school exclaims, ' As if evi- 
dence to the "Word of God were a thing to be tolerated 
by a Christian ; except as an additional condemnation 
for those who reject it, or as a sort of exercise and in- 

> See Tracts for the Times, No. Ixxxv. pp. 8^-100. 
2 Tract ISIo. X. p. 4. 

120 Study of the Evidences of Christianiti/. 

dulgeiice or a Christian unclerstancling.'^ Tims wliile 
the highest section of Anglican orthodoxy does not 
hesitate openly to disavow the old evidential argu- 
ment ; referring everything to the authority of the 
Church, the more moderate virtually discredit it hy 
a general tone of vacillation between the antagonistic 
claims of reason and faith ;• — intuition and evidence; — 
while the extreme ' evangelical' school, strongly as- 
serting the literal truth of the Bible, seeks its evidence 
wholly in spiritual impressions, regarding all exercise 
of the reason as partaking in the nature of sin. But 
even among less prejudiced thinkers, we find indica- 
tions of similar views ;'-^ thus a very able critic writing 
in express defence of the Christian cause, speaks of 
* that accumulation of historical testimonies,' ' which 
the last age erroneously denominated the evidences of 
Christianity.' And the poet Coleridge, than whom no 
writer has been more earnest in upholding and 
defending Christianity, even in its most orthodox 
form, in speaking of its external attestations, impa- 
tiently^ exclaims, ' Evidences of Christianity ! I am 
weary of the word : make a man feel the want of it 
. . . and you may safely trust it to its own evidence.'^ 
But still further : Paley's well-known conclusion to 
the 5th book of his j\foral Pldlosophij, pronounced by 
Dr. Parr to be the finest prose passage in English 
literature, more especially his final summing up of 
the evidential argument in the words, ' He alone dis- 
covers who proves : and no man can prove this point 
(a future retribution), but the teacher who testifies by 
miracles that his doctrine comes from God,' — calls forth 
from Coleridge an emphatic protest against the entire 
principle, as being at variance with that moral election 
which he would make the essential basis of religious 

British Critic, No. xlviii. p. 304. 

Edin. Rev. No. cxli. 

Aids to Re/iexion, i. p. 333. 

StucI^ of the Evidences of Chndianify. 121 

belief;^ to which he adds, m another phice, 'The 
cordial admiration with which I peruse the pre- 
ceding passage as a masterpiece of composition 
Avoukl, coukl I convey it, serve as a measure of the 
vital importance I attach to the convictions which 
impelled me to animadvert on the same passage as 

Some of the most strenuous assertors of miracles 
have been foremost to disclaim the notion of their 
being the sole certificaie of Divine communication, and 
have maintained that the true force of the Christian 
evidences lies in the union and comhination of the 
external testimony of miracles, with the internal ex- 
cellence of the doctrine; thus, in fact, practically 
making the latter the real test of the admissibility of the 

The necessity for such a combination of the evi- 
dence of miracles with the test of the doctrine in- 
culcated is acknowledged in the Bible, both under 
the old and the new dispensations. We read of false 
prophets who might predict signs and wonders, which 
might come to pass ; but this was to be of no avail if 
they led their hearers ' after other gods.'^ 

In like manner, ' if an angel from heaven' preached 
any other gospel to the Gakitians, they were to reject 
it> And even accordino; to Christ's own admonitions, 
false Christs and false prophets should show signs and 
wonders such as might ' deceive, if possible, the very 
elect. '^ 

According to this view, the main ground of the 
admissibility of external attestations is the worthiness 
of their object — the doctrine ; its un worthiness will 
discredit even the most distinctly alleged apparent mi- 
racles, and such worthiness or unworthiness appeals 
solely to our moral judgment. 


* Aids to Reflexion, p. 278. ^ lb. p. 338. 

' Deut. xiii. i. * Gal. i. 8. ^ Matt. :;^xiv. 24. 

122 Studi/ of the Evidences of CUridianity. 

No man has dwelt more forcibly on miraculous 
evidence than Archbishop Whately ; yet in relation 
to tlie character of Christ as conspiring with the ex- 
ternal attestations of his mission, he strongly remarks 
(speaking of some who would ascribe to Christ an 
unworthy doctrine, an equivocal mode of teaching), 
' If I could believe Jesus to have been guilty of such 

subterfuges I not only could not 

acknowledge him as sent from God, but should reject 
him with the deepest moral indignation.'^ 

Dean Lyall enters largely into this important qua- 
lification in his defence of the miraculous argument, 
applying it in the most unreserved manner to the 
ecclesiastical miracles,^ which he rejects at once as 
having no connexion with doctrine. We have also 
on record the remark of Dr. Johnson : — ' Why, sir, 
Bume, taking the proposition simply, is right; but 
the Christian revelation is not proved b}" miracles 
J alone, but as connected Avitli prophecies and with 
the doctrines in confirmation of which miracles were 

This has, indeed, been the common argument of 
the most approved divines : it is that long ago urged 
b}^ Dr. S. Clarke,^ and recently supported by Dean 
Trench.^ Yet what is it but to acknowledge the 
right of an appeal, superior to that of all miracles, 
to our own moral tribunal, to the principle that 
' the human mind is competent to sit in moral and 
spiritual judgment on a professed revelation,' in vir- 
tue of which Professor F. W. Newman, as well as many 
other inquirers, have come to so very oj^posite a con- 

Again, it has been strongly urged by the last- 

' Kingdom of Christ, Essay i. § 12. 

' Fr'opadia Prophetica, p. 441. 

" Boswell's Life, iii. 169. Ed. 1826. 

* Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion, § xiv. 

* Notes on Miracles, p. 27. 

^tucly of the EoiJenccs of Christianity. 123 

named writer, if niiracles are made the sole criterion, 
then amid the various difficulties attending the scru- 
tiny of evidence, and the detection of imposture, an 
advantage is clearly given to the shrcAvd sceptic over 
the simple-minded and well-disposed disciple, utterly 
fatal to the purity of faith/ 

The view of miraculous evidence which allows it to 
be taken only in connexion with, and in fact in sub- 
serviency to, the moral and internal proof derived from 
the character of the doctrine, has been pushed to a 
greater extent by the writer last named ; who asks, 
What is the value of ' faith at second hand ?' — Ought 
anjr external testimony to overrule internal conviction ? 
Ought any wora/ truth to be received in mere obedience 
to a miracle of se}t!<e /^ and observes that a miracle can 
only address itself to our external senses, and that 
internal and moral impressions must be deemed of a kind 
paramount to external and sensible. 

If it be alleged that this internal sense may be 
delusive, not less so, it is replied, may the external 
senses deceive us as to the world of sense and external 
evidence. The same author however expressly allows 
that the claims of ' the historical' and ' the spiritual,' the 
proofs addressed to ' reason' and to the ' internal sense,' 
may each be properly- entertained in their respective 
provinces — the danger lies in confounding them or 
mistaking the one for the other. 

Even in the estimation of external evidence, every- 
thing depends on our preliminari/ moral convictions, 
and upon deciding in the first instance whether, on 
the one hand, we are ' to abandon moral conviction at 
the bidding of a miracle,' or, on the other, to make 
conformity with moral principles the sole test both of 
the evidences and of the doctrines of revelation. 

In point of fact, he contends that the main actual 

* See Phases of Faith, p. 154. 
^ lb. pp. 82, loS, 201, 1st Ed. 

1.24 Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 

appeal of the Apostles, especially of St. Paul, was not 
to outward testimony or logical argument, but to spi- 
ritual assurances : — that even when St. Paul does enter 
on a sort of evidential discussion, his reasoning is very 
unlike what a Paley would have exacted : — that all 
real evidence is of the spirit — which alone can judge 
of spiritual things ; that the Apostles did not go about 
proclaiming an infallible booJc, but the convert was to 
be convinced by his own internal judgment, not called 
on to resign it to a systematized and dogmatic creed. 
And altogether the reasoning of the Apostles (wher- 
ever they enter upon the department of reasoning), 
was not according to our logic, but only in accordance 
with the knowledge and philosophy of the age. 

Thus in this fundamental assumption of internal 
evidence, some of the most orthodox writers are in 
fact in close agreement with, those nominally of a very 
opposite school. 

It was the argument of Doderlein, that 'the truth 
of the doctrine does not dej^end on the miracles, but 
we must frst be convinced of the doctrine by its 
internal evidence.' 

De Wette and others of the rationalists expressly 
contend, that the real evidence of the divinity of any 
doctrine can only be its accordance with the dictations 
of the moi'al sense, and this, Wegscheider further 
insists, was in fact the actual appeal of Christ in his 

In a word, on this view, it would follow that all 
external attestation would seem superfluous if it 
concur with, or to be rejected if it oppose, these moral 

' Jesus ipse doctriiiara quam tradidit divinam esse professus est, quantum 
divina ejus indoles ab homine vere religioso proboque bene cognosci potest 
atque dijudicari. — Weo^scheider, in Jolt. vii. 17. 

Nulla alia ratio et via eas [doctrinas] examinandi datur quam ut illarum 
placita cum iis qure via natural! rectaj rationis de Deo ejusque voluntate 
ipsi innotuerint diligenter componat et ad nonnain sine omni supevstitioue 
examinet. — Wegscheider, Instit. Theol. Chris. Dogm., § II, p. 38. 

^liiJy of the Eoidciices of Chrislianity. 125 

convictions/ Thus a considerable school have been 
disposed to look to the intrinsic evidence only, and to 
accept the declarations of the Gospel solely o\\ the ground 
of their intrinsic excellence and accordance with our 
best and highest moral and religious convictions ; a 
view which would approach very nearly to rejecting 
its peculiarities altogether. 

Thus considerations of a very different nature are now 
introduced from those formerly entertained ; and of a 
kind which affect the entire primary conception of 'a reve- 
lation' and its authority, and not merely any alleged 
external attestations of its truth. Thus any discussion 
of the ' evidences' at the present day, must have a 
reference equally to the influence of the various 
systems whether of ancient precedent or of modern 
illumination, which so widely and powerfully affect 
the state of opinion or belief. 

Tn whatever light we regard the * evidences' of 
religion, to be of any effect, whether external or inter- 
nal, they must always have a special reference to the 
peculiar capacity and apprehension of the party addressed. 
Points which may be seen to involve the greatest 
difficulty to more profound inquirers, are often such 
as do not occasion the least perplexity to ordinary 
minds, but are allowed to pass without hesitation. 
To them all difficulties are smoothed down, all objec- 
tions (if for a moment raised) are at once answered by 
a few plausible commonplace generalities, which to 
their minds are invested with the force of axiomatic 
truths, and to question which they would regard as at 
once idle and impious. 

On the other hand, exceptions held forth as fatal 
by the shallow caviller are seen by the more deeply 
reflecting in all their actual littleness and fallacy. But 
for the sake of all parties at the present day, especially 

' Such was the argument of the Characteristics, vol. ii. p. 334. 
Ed. 1727. 

126 Sindij of the Evidences of ChriHlianity . 

those who at least profess a disposition for pursuing 
the serious discussion of such momentous subjects, it 
becomes imperatively necessary, that such views of it 
should be suggested as may be really suitable to 
better informed minds, and may meet the increasing 
demands of an age pretending at least to greater en- 

Those who have reflected most deeply on the nature 
of the argument from external evidence, will admit 
that it would naturally possess very different degrees 
of force as addressed to different ages ; and in a 
period of advanced physical knowledge the reference 
to what was believed in past times, if at variance with 
principles now acknowledged, could afford little ground 
of appeal : in fact, would damage the argument rather 
than assist it. 

Even some of the older writers assign a much lower 
place to the evidence of miracles, contrasting it with 
the conviction of real faith, as being merely a pre- 
paratory step to it. Thus, an old divine observes : — 

' Adducuntur primum ratione exteri ad fidem, 

et quasi prseparantur ; "signis 

ergo et miraculis via fidei per sensus et rationeni 

^ And here it should be especially noticed, as charac- 
teristic of the ideas of his age, that this writer classes 
the sensible evidence of miracles along with the con- 
victions of reason, the very opposite to the view which 
would now be adopted, indicative of the difference in 
physical conceptions, which now connects miracles 
rather with faith, as they are seen to be inconceivable 
to reason. 

These prevalent tendencies in the opinions of the 
age cannot but be regarded as connected with the in- 
creasing admission of those broader views of physical 
truth and universal order in nature, which have been 

^ Melchior Canus, Loci Tlieol. ix. 6. about 1540. 

Stiidj/ of the Eoldeiices of Clindianity. 127 

followed out to liiglier contemplations, and point to 
the acknowledgment of an overruling and all-per\^ad- 
ing supreme intelligence. 

In advancing beyond these conclusions to the doc- 
trines of revelation, we must recognise both the due 
claims of science to decide on points properly belong- 
ing to the world of matter, and the independence of 
such considerations which characterizes the disclosure 
of spiritual truth, as such. 

All reason and science conspire to the confession 
tliat beyond the domain of physical causation and the 
possible conceptions of intellect or knowledge, there lies 
open the boundless region of spiritual things, which is 
tlie sole dominion o[ faiffi. And while intellect and 
philosophy are compelled to disown the recognition 
of anything in the world of matter at variance with 
the first principle of the laws of matter — the universal 
order and indissoluble unity of physical causes — they 
are the more ready to admit the higher claims of 
divine mysteries in the invisible and spiritual world. 
Advancing knowledge, while it asserts the dominion 
of science in physical things, confirms that of faith in 
spiritual ; we thus neither impugn the generalizations 
of philosophy, nor allow them to invade the dominion 
of faith, and admit that what is not a subject for a 
problem may hold its place in a creed. 

In an evidential point of view it has been admitted 
by some of the most candid divines, that the appeal 
to miracles, however important in the early stages of 
the Gospel, has become less material in later times, 
and others have even expressly pointed to this as 
the reason why they have been withdrawn ; whilst at 
the present day the most earnest advocates of evan- 
gelical faith admit that outward marvels are needless 
to spiritual conviction, and triumph in the greater 
moral miracle of a converted and regenerate soul. 

They echo the declaration of St. Chrysostom — 
' If you are a believer as you ought to be, and love 

128 Study of the Evide72ces of Clnidianity. 

Christ as you ouglit to love him, you have no need 
of miracles, for these are given to unbelievers.'^ 

After all, the evhlmtial argument has but little 
actual weight with the generality of believers. The 
high moral convictions often referred to for internal 
evidence are, to say the least, probably really felt by 
very few, and the appeal made to miracles as proofs 
of revelation by still fewer ; a totally different feeling 
actuates the many, and the spirit of faith is acknow- 
ledged where there is little disposition to reason at all, 
or wdiere moral and philosophical considerations are 
absolutely rejected on the highest religious grounds, 
and everything referred to the sovereign power of 
divine grace. 

Matters of clear and positive fact, investigated on 
critical grounds and supported by exact evidence, are 
properly matters of knowledge, not of faith. It is 
rather in points of less definite character that any 
exercise of faith can take place ; it is rather with 
matters of religious belief belonging to a higher and 
less conceivable class of truths, with the mysterious 
things of the unseen world, that faith owns a con- 
nexion, and more readily associates itself with spiritual 
ideas, than with external evidence, or physical events ; 
and it is generally admitted that many points of impor- 
tant religious instruction, even conveyed under the form 
of fictions (as in the instances of doctrines inculcated 
through parables) are more congenial to the spirit of 
faith than any relations of historical events could be. 

The more knowledge advances, the more it has 
been, and will be, acknowledged that Christianity, as 
a real religion, must be viewed apart from connexion 
with physical things. 

1 ^ , , ei yap tticttos decs fivai xpf] K«t <f)iX€ls tou XpicrTov as (fyiXflv 
Set ov Yoeiai' fX^'^ '''"'' ""'JMf'wf ravrn yap inricrToii 8e8oTai. — Sum. xxiii. 
in Johan. To the same efiect also S. isidoie, ' Tunc opoitebat luundum 
m'lvaculis credere, — nunc vero crtdcntem oportet bcnis operibus coruscare,' 
cited in Huss in defence of WickliH". 

Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 129 

The first dissociation of the spiritual from the 
physical was rendered necessary by the palpable con- 
tradictions disclosed by astronomical discovery with 
the letter of Scripture. Another still wider and more 
material step has been effected by the discoveries 
of geology. More recently the antiquity of the 
human race, and the development of species, and the 
rejection of the* idea of ' creation,' have caused new 
advances in the same direction. 

In all these cases there is, indeed, a direct dis- 
crepancy between what had been taken for revealed 
truth and certain undeniable existing monuments to 
the contrary. 

But these monuments were interpreted by science 
and reason, and there are other deductions of science 
and reason referring to alleged events, which, though 
they have left no monuments or permanent effects 
behind them, are not the less legitimately subject to 
the conclusions of positive science, and require a 
similar concession and recognition of the same prin- 
ciple of the independence of spiritual and of physical 

Thus far our observations are general : but at the 
present moment some recent publications on the sub- 
ject seem to call for a few more detailed remarks. We 
have before observed that the style and character of 
works on 'the evidences,' has of necessity varied in 
different ages. Those of Leslie and Grotius have, by 
common consent, been long since superseded by that of 
Paley. Paley was long the text-book at Cambridge ; 
his work was never so extensively popular at Oxford — 
it has, of late, been entirely disused there. By the 
public at large, however once accepted, we do not 
hesitate to express our belief, that before another 
quarter of a century has elapsed it will be laid on the 
shelf with its predecessors ; not that it is a work des- 
titute of high merit — as is pre-eminently true also of 
those it superseded, and of others again anterior to 


130 Studj/ of the Evidences of Christianiti/. 

them ; but they have all followed the irreversible des- 
tiny that a work, suited to convince the public mind 
at any one particular period, must be accommodated to 
the actual condition of knowledge, of opinion, and 
mode of thought of that period. It is not a question 
of abstract excellence, but of relative adaptatio-^,. 

Paley caught the prevalent tone of thought in his 
day. Public opinion has now taken a different turn ; 
and, what is more important, the style and class of 
difficulties and objections generally felt has become 
wholly different. New modes of speculation — new 
forms of scepticism — have invaded the domain of 
that settled belief which a past age had been ac- 
customed to rest on the Paleyan syllogism. Yet, 
among several works which have of late appeared 
on the subject, we recognise few which at all meet 
these requirements of existing opinion. Of some of the 
chief of these works, even appearing under the sanction 
of eminent names, we are constrained to remark that 
they are altogether behind the age ; that amid much 
learned and acute remark on matters of detail, those 
material points on which the modern difficulties chiefly 
turn, as well as the theories advanced to meet them, 
are, for the most part, not only ignored and passed 
over without examination or notice, but the entire 
school of those writers who, with infinitely varied 
shades of view, have dwelt upon these topics and put 
forth their attempts, feeble or powerful as the case 
may be — to solve the difficulties — to improve the tone 
of discussion, to reconcile the difficulties of reason 
with the high aspirations and demands of faith — are 
all indiscriminately confounded in one common cate- 
gory of censure ; their views dismissed with ridicule 
as sophistical and fallacious, abused as infinitely dan- 
gerous, themselves denounced as heretics and infidels, 
and libelled as scoffers and atheists. 

In truth, the majority of these champions of the 
evidential logic betray an almost entire unconscious- 

study of the Evidences of Christianiti/. 131 

ness of the advance of opinion around them. Having 
their own ideas long since cast in the stereotyped 
mould of the past, they seem to expect that a pro- 
gressing age ought still to adhere to the same type, 
and bow implicitly to a solemn and j)ompous, but 
childish parade and reiteration, of the one-sided 
dogmas of an obsolete school, coupled with awful 
denunciations of heterodoxy on all who refuse to 
listen to them. 

Paley clearly, as some of his modern commentators 
do avoioedly, occupied the position of an advocate, not 
of a judge. They professedly stand up on one side, 
and challenge the counsel on the other to reply. 
Their object is not truth, but their client's case. 
The whole argument is one of special pleading; 
we may admire the ingenuity, and confess the 
adroitness with which favourable points are seized, 
unfavourable ones dropped, evaded, or disguised ; but 
we do not find ourselves the more impressed with those* 
high and sacred convictions of truth, which ought to 
result rather from the wary, careful, dispassionate 
summing-up on both sides, which is the function of 
the impartial and inflexible judge. 

The one topic constantly insisted on as essential to 
the grounds of belief, considered as based on outward 
historical evidence, is that of tlie credibility of external 
facts as supported by testimony. This has always formed 
the most material point in the reasonings of the 
evidential writers of former times, however imperfectly 
and unsatisfactorily to existing modes of thought they 
treated it. And to this point, their more recent fol- 
lowers have still almost as exclusively directed their 

In the representations which they constantly make, 
we cannot but notice a strong apparent tendency and 
desire to uphold the mere assertion of witnesses as the 
sujn-eme evidence oi fact, to the utter disparagement 
of all general grounds of reasoning, analogy, and an- 

K 2 

132 finely of the Evidences of Christianity. 

tecedent credibility, by which that testimony may be 
modified or discredited. Yet we remark, that all the 
instances they adduce, when carefully examined, really 
tend to the very conclusion they are so anxious to set 
aside. Arguments of this kind are sometimes deduced 
from such cases as, e.y., the belief accorded on very 
slight ground of probability in all commercial trans- 
actions dependent on the assumed credit and character 
of the negotiating parties ; from the conclusions acted 
upon in life assurances, notwithstanding the pro- 
verbial instability of life ; — and the like : in all which 
we can see no other real drift or tendency than to 
substantiate instead of disparage the necessity for 
some deeply-seated conviction of permanent order as 
the basis of all probability. 

A great source of misapprehension in this class ol 
arguments has been the undue confusion between the 
force of testimony in regard to human affairs and events 
in history, and in regard to physical facts. It may be 
true that some of the most surprising occurrences in 
ordinary history are currently, and perhaps correctly 
accepted, on but slight grounds of real testimony ; 
but then they relate to events of a kind which, 
however singular in their particular concomitant 
circumstances, are not pretended to be beyond natu- 
ral causes, or to involve higher questions of interven- 

The most seemingly improbable events in human his- 
tory may be perfectly credible, on sufficient testimony, 
however contradicting ordinary experience of human 
motives and conduct — simply because we cannot assign 
any limits to the varieties of human dispositions, 
passions, or tendencies, or the extent to which they 
may be influenced by circumstances of which, perhaps, 
we have little or no knowledge to guide us. But no 
such cases would have the remotest applicability to 
alleged violations of the laws o^ matter, or interruptions 
of the course of physical causes. 

Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 133 

Tlie case of the alleged external attestations of 
Revelation, is one essentially involving considerations 
of physical evidence. It is not one in which such 
reflexions and habits of thought as arise out of a 
familiarity with human history, and moral argument, 
will suffice. These no doubt and other kindred topics, 
with which the scholar and the moralist are familiar, 
are of great and fundamental importance to our general 
views of the whole subject of Christian evidence ; but 
the particular case of miracles, as such, is one specially 
bearing on purely physical contemplations, and on 
which no general moral principles, no common rules 
of evidence or logical technicalities, can enable us to 
form a correct judgment. It is not a question which 
can be decided by a few trite and commonplace 
generalities as to the moral government of the world 
and the belief in the Divine Omnipotence — or as to the 
validity of human testimony, or the limits of human 
experience. It involves, and is essentially built upon, 
those grander conceptions of the order of nature, those 
comprehensive primary elements of all physical know- 
ledge, those ultimate ideas of universal causation, 
which can only be familiar to those thoroughly versed 
in cosmical philosophy in its widest sense. 

In an age of physical research like the present, all 
highly cultivated minds and duly advanced intellects 
have imbibed, more or less, the lessons of the inductive 
philosophy, and have at least in some measure learned 
to appreciate the grand foundation conception of 
universal law — to recognise the impossibility even of 
(my two material atoms subsisting together without a 
determinate relation — of any action of the one on the 
other, whether of equilibrium or of motion, without 
reference to a physical cause — of any modification 
whatsoever in the existing conditions of material agents, 
unless through the invariable operation of a series of 
eternally impressed consequences, following in some 
necessary chain of orderly connexion — however imper- 

134 Study of the Evidences of Chidianitij. 

fectly known to us. So clear and indisputable indeed 
has this great truth become — so deeply seated has it 
been now admitted to be, in the essential nature of 
sensible things and of the external world, that not 
only do all philosophical inquirers adopt it, as a 
primary principle and guiding maxim of all their 
researches — but, what is most worthy of remark, 
minds of a less comprehensive capacity, accustomed 
to reason on topics of another character, and on more 
contracted views, have at the present day been con- 
strained to evince some concession to this grand prin- 
ciple, even when seeming to oppose it. 

Among writers on these questions, Dean Trench has 
evinced a higher view of physical philosophy than we 
might have expected from the mere promptings of phi- 
lology and literature, when he affirms that ' we con- 
tinually behold lower laws held in restraint by higher ; 
mechanic by dynamic — chemical by vital, physical by 
moral ;' remarks which, if only followed out, entirely 
accord with the conclusion of universal subordination 
of causation ; though we must remark in passing that 
the meaning of ' moral laws controlling physical,' is 
not very clear. 

It is for the most part hazardous ground for any 
general moral reasoner to take, to discuss subjects of 
evidence which essentially involve that higher appre- 
ciation of phynical truth which can be attained only 
from an accurate and comprehensive acquaintance with 
the connected series of the physical and mathematical 
sciences. Thus, for example, the simple but grand 
truth of the law of conservation, and the stability of 
the heavenly motions, now well understood by all sound 
cosmical philosophers, is but the t3q3e of the universal 
self-sustaining and self-evolving powers which pervade 
all nature. Yet the difficulty of conceiving this truth 
in its simplest exemplification was formerly the chief 
hindrance to the acceptance of the solar system — from 
the prepossession of the peripatetic dogma that there 

StuJtj of the Evidences of Chri>>{iauif^. 135 

must be a constantly acting moving force to keep it 
going. This very exploded chimera, however, by a 
singular infatuation, is now actually revived as the 
ground of argument for miraculous interposition by 
redoubtable champions who, to evince their profound 
knowledge of mechanical philosophy, inform us that 
' the whole of nature is like a mill, which cannot go 
on without the continual application of a moving 
power !' 

Of these would-be philosophers, we find many 
anxiously dwelling on the topic, so undeniably j ust in 
itself, of the danger of incautious conclusions — of the 
gross errors into which men Ml by over-hast}^ gene- 
ralizations. They recount with triumph the absurd 
mistakes into which some even eminent philosophers 
have fallen in prematurely denying what experience 
has since fully shown to be true, because in the then 
state of knowledge it seemed incredible.^ They feel 
an elevating sense of superiority in putting down the 
arrogance of scientific pretensions by alleging the short- 
sighted dogmatism with which men of high repute in 
science have evinced a scepticism in points of vulgar 
belief, in which, after all, the vulgar belief has proved 
right. They even make a considerable display of 
reasoning on such cases ; but we cannot sa}^ that those 
reasonings are particularly distinguished for con- 
sistency, force, or originality. The philosopher (for 
example) denies the credibilit}^ of alleged events pro- 
fessedly in their nature at variance with all phi/sical 
analog]!. These writers, in reply, affect to make a solemn 
appeal to the bar of analogy, and support it by instances 
which precisely defeat their own conclusion. Thus they 
advance the novel and profoundly instructive story of an 
Indian who denied the existence of ice as at variance 

^ Numerous instances of the kind referred to will be found cited in Mr. 
R. Chambers's Essay on Testimony, &c. Edinburgh Papers, 1859 ; and in 
Abp. VVhately's Edition of Paley's Evidences. 

136 Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 

with experience ; and still more from the contradiction 
that being solid, it could not float in water. In like 
manner they dwell npon other equally interesting 
stories of a butterfly, who from the experience of his 
ephemeral life in summer, denied that the leaves were 
ever brown or the ground covered with snow ; of a 
child who watched a clock made to strike o)ily at noon, 
through many hours, and therefore concluded it could 
never strike ; of a person who had observed that fish 
are organized to stoim, and therefore concluded there 
could be no such animals ^^fying fish. 

These, with a host of other equally recondite, novel, 
startling, and conclusive instances are urged in a tone 
of solemn wisdom, to prove — what ? That water is 
converted into ice by a regular Icnoian law ; that it has 
a specific gravity less than water by some laiv at present 
but imperfectly understood ; that without violation of 
analogy, fins may be modified into wings ; that it is 
part of the great laio of climate that in winter leaves 
are brown and the ground sometimes white — that 
machinery may be made with action intermitting by 
laws as regular as those of its more ordinary operation. 
In a word, that the philosopher who looks to an 
endless subordinating series of laws of successively 
higher generality, is inconsistent in denying events at 
variance with that subordination ! 

It is indeed curious to notice the elaborate multi- 
plication of instances adduced by some of the writers 
referred to, all really tending to prove the subordi- 
nation of facts to laws, clearly evinced as soon as the 
cases were well understood, though, till then, often 
regarded in a sceptical spirit ; while of that scepticism 
they furnish the real and true refutation in the prin- 
ciple of law ultimately established, under whatever 
primary appearance and semblance of marvellous 
discordance from all h^w. It would be beyond our 
limits to notice in detail such instances as are thus 
dwelt upon, and apparently regarded as of sovereign 

Study oj the Evidences of Christianity. 137 

value and importance, to discredit philosophical gene- 
ralization : — such as the disbelief in the marvels re- 
counted by Marco Polo ; of the miracle of the martyrs 
who spoke articulately after their tongues were cut 
out ; the angel seen in the air by 2000 persons at 
Milan ; the miraculous balls of fire on the spires at 
Plausac ; Herodotus's story of the bird in the mouth 
of the crocodile ; narratives of the sea-serpent, marvels 
of mesmerism and electro-biology; all discredited 
formerly as fables ; vaccination observed and attested 
by peasants, but denied and ridiculed by medical 
men : — 

These and the like cases are all urged as triumphant 
proofs, of what? — that some men have always been, 
found of unduly sceptical tendencies ; and sometimes 
of a rationally cautious turn ; who have heard strange, 
and, perhaps, exaggerated narratives, and have main- 
tained sometimes a wise, sometimes an unwise, degree 
of reserve and caution in admitting them ; though they 
have since proved in accordance with natural causes. 

Hallam and Eogers are cited as veritable witnesses 
to the truth of certain effects of mesmerism in their 
day generally disbelieved; and for asserting which 
they were met with all but an imputation of ' the lie 
direct.' They admitted, however, that their assertion 
was founded on ' experience so rare as to be had only 
once in a century;' but that experience has been 
since universally borne out by all who have candidly 
examined the question, and the apj)are?itly isolated and 
marvellous cases have settled down into examples of 
broad and general laios, now fully justified by experience 
and analogy. 

Physiological evidence is adduced (which we will 
suppose well substantiated) to show that the excision 
of the whole tonyue does not take away the power of 
speech, though that of the extremity does so ; hence 
the denial of the story from imperfect experience. 
So of other cases : the angel at Milan was the 

138 Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 

aerial reflexion of an image on a cliurcli ; the balls of 
fire, at Plausac, were electrical ; the sea-serpent was a 
basking shark, or a stem of sea-weed. A committee of 
the French Academy of Sciences, with Lavoisier at 
its head, after a grave investigation, pronounced the 
alleged fall of aerolites to be a superstitious fable. It 
is, however, now substantiated, not as a miracle, but 
as a well-known natural phenomenon. Instances of 
undue philosophical scepticism are unfortunately com- 
mon ; but they are the errors, not the correct processes, 
of inductive inquiry. 

Granting all these instances, we merely ask — what 
do they prove? — except the real and paramount 
dominion of the rule of law and order, of universal 
suhordination of physical causes, as the sole pi'inciple 
and criterion of proof and evidence in the region of 
physical and sensible truth ; and nowhere more em- 
phatically than in the history of marvels and pro- 
digies, do we find a verification of the truth, ' opin- 
ion um commenta delet dies, naturae judicia con- 

This in fact is the sole real result of all the profound 
parallelisms and illustrative anecdotes so confidently 
but unconsciously adduced by these writers with an 
opposite design. 

What is the real conclusion from the far-famed 
Historic Doubts and the Chronicles of Ecnarf? but 
simply this — there is a rational solution, ?i r6'6(/ conformity 
to analogy and experience, to whatever extent a par- 
tially informed iuquirer might be led to reject the re- 
counted apparent wonders on imperfect knowledge, and 
from too hasty inference ; these delightful parodies 
on Scripture (if they prove anything), would simply 
prove that the Bible narrative is no more properly 
miraculous than the marvellous exploits of Napoleon I., 
or the paradoxical events of recent histor3^ 

Just a similar scepticism has been evinced by nearly 
all the first physiologists of the day, who have joined 

SfiiJ?/ of the Evidences of Chistianitij. 139 

in rejecting the development theories of Lamarck and 
the Vedlges ; and while they have strenuously main- 
tained successive creations, have denied and denounced 
the asserted production of organic life by Messrs. Crosse 
and Weekes, and stoutly maintained the impossibility 
of spontaneous generation, on the alleged ground of con- 
tradiction to experience. Yet it is now acknowledged 
under the high sanction of the name of Owen,^ that 
' creation' is only another name for our ignorance of the 
mode of production ; and it has been the unanswered 
and unanswerable argument of another reasoner that 
new species must have originated either out of their inor- 
ganic elements, or out of previously organized forms j 
either development or spontaneous generation must he 
true : while a work has now appeared b}^ a naturalist 
of the most acknowledged authority, Mr. Darwin's 
masterly volume on Tlte Origin of Sj^ecies by the law 
of ' natural selection,' — which now substantiates on 
undeniable grounds the very principle so long de- 
nounced by the first naturalists, — the origination of 
■new species by natural causes : a work which must soon 
bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favour of 
the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature. 
By parity of reason it might just as well be objected 
to Archbishop Whately's theory of civilization, Ave have 
only for a few centuries known anything of savages ; 
how then can we pretend to infer that they have 7iever 
civilized themselves ? never, in all that enormous 
length of time which modern discovery has now indis- 
putably assigned to the existence of the human race ! 
This theory, however, is now introduced as a com- 
ment on Paley in support of the credibility of revela- 
tion ; and an admirable argument no doubt it is, 
though perhaps many would apply it in a sense some- 
what different from that of the author. If the use of 
fire, the cultivation of the soil, and the like, were 

British Association Address, 1S58. 

140 Study of the Evidences of Christianity. 

Divine revelations, the most obvious inference would 
be that so likewise are printing and steam. If the 
boomerang was divinely communicated to savages 
ignorant of its principle, then surely the disclosure of 
that principle in our time by the gyroscope, was 
equally so. But no one denies revelation in this sense ; 
the philosophy of the age does not discredit the in- 
spiration of Prophets and Apostles, though it may 
sometimes believe it in poets, legislators, philosophers, 
and others gifted with high genius. At all events, the 
revelation of civilization does not involve the question 
of external miracles, which is here the sole point in 
dispute. The main assertion of Paley is that it is 
impossible to conceive a revelation given except by 
means of miracles. This is his primary axiom ; but 
this is precisely the point which the modern turn of 
reasoning most calls in question, and rather adopts 
. the belief that a revelation is then most credible, when 
it appeals least to violations of natural causes. Thus, 
if miracles were in the estimation of a former ao-e 
among the chief siq)ports of Christianity, they are at 
present among the main difficulties, and hindrances to 
^ its acceptance. 

One of the first inductive pliilosophers of the age, 
Professor Faraday, has incurred the unlimited dis- 
pleasure of these profound intellectualists, because he 
has urged that the mere contracted experience of the 
senses is liable to deception, and that we ought to be 
guided in our conclusions — and, in fact, can only correct 
the errors of the senses — by a careful recurrence to the 
consideration of natural laws and extended analogies.^ 
In opposition to this heretical proposition, they^ set 
in array the dictum of two great authorities of the 
Scottish scdiool, Drs. Abercrombie and Chalmers, that 
' on a certain amount of testimony we might believe 

* Lecture on Mental Education, i8,'^4. 
" See Edinburgh Papers, ' Testimouy,' &c., by 11. Cliambers, Esq., 
F.R.S.E., &c. 

Studij of the Evidences of Christianity. 141 

any statement, however improbable ;' so tliat if a num- 
ber of respectable witnesses were to concur in asseve- 
rating that on a certain occasion they had seen two 
and two make five, we should be bound to believe them ! 

This, perhaps it will be said, is an extreme case. 
Let us suppose another : — if a number of veracious 
witnesses were to allege a real instance of witchcraft 
at the present day, there might no doubt be found 
some infatuated persons who would believe it ; but 
the strongest of such assertions to any educated man 
would but prove either that the witnesses were cun- 
ningly imposed upon, or the wizard himself deluded. 
If the most numerous ship's company were all to 
asseverate that they had seen a mermaid, would any 
rational persons at the present day believe them? 
That they saw something which they believed to be a 
mermaid, would be easily conceded. No amount of 
attestation of innumerable and honest witnesses, 
would ever convince any one versed in mathematical 
and mechanical science, that a person had squared 
the circle or discovered perpetual motion. Antecedent 
credibility depends on antecedent knowledge, and 
enlarged views of the connexion and dependence ot 
truths ; and the value of any testimony will be modi- 
fied or destroyed in different degrees to minds dif- 
ferently enlightened. 

Testimony, after all, is but a second-hand assurance ; 
— it is but a blind guide ; testimony can avail nothing 
against reason. The essential question of miracles 
stands quite apart from any consideration of testimony ; 
the question would remain the same, if we had the 
evidence of our own senses to an alleged miracle, that 
is, to an extraordinary or inexplicable fact. It is not 
the mere fact, but the cause or explanation of it, which 
is the point at issue. 

The case, indeed, of the antecedent argument of mi- 
racles is very clear, however little some are inclined 
to perceive it. In nature and from nature, by science 

142 Studij of the Evidences of C/iristianitt/. 

and by reason, we neither have nor can possibly have 
any evidence of a Deiti/ working miracles ; — for that, we 
must go out of nature and beyond science. If we 
could have any such evidence from nature, it could 
only prove extraordinary natural effects, which would 
not be miracles in the old theological sense, as isolated, 
unrelated, and uncaused ; whereas no physical fact can 
be conceived as unique, or without analogy and relation 
to otliers, and to the whole system of natural causes. 

To conclude : an alleged miracle can only be re- 
garded in one of two ways; — either (e) abstractedly 
^' as a physical event, and therefore to be investigated 
' by reason and physical evidence, and referred to phy- 
sical causes, possibly to known causes, but at all events 
to some higher cause or law, if at present unknown ; 
it then ceases to be supernatural, yet still might be 
appealed to in support of religious truth, especially 
as referring to the state of knowledge and apprehen- 
sions of the parties addressed in past ages ; or (2) 
as connected with religious doctrine, regarded in a 
sacred light, asserted on the authority of inspiration. 
In this case it ceases to be capable of investigation by 
reason, or to own its dominion ; it is accepted on re- 
ligious grounds, and can appeal only to the principle 
and influence of faith. Thus miraculous narratives be- 
come invested with the character of articles of faith, if 
they be accepted in a less positive and certain light, 
as requiring some suspension of judgment as to their 
nature and circumstances, or perhaps as involving 
more or less of the parabolic or mythic character ; or 
at any rate as received in connexion with, and for the 
sake of the doctrine inculcated. 

Some of the most strenuous advocates of the Chris- 
tian ' evidences' readily avow, indeed expressly con- 
tend, that the attestation of miracles is, after all, not 
irresistible ; and that in the very uncertainty which 
confessedly remains lies the ' trial of faith,'^ which it is 

' See, e.cj., Butler's Analogy, pt, ii. ch. 6. 

Studij of the Evidences of Christianity. 143 

thus implied must really rest on some other inde- 
pendent moral conviction. 

In the popular acceptation, it is clear the Gospel 
miracles are always objects, not evidences of faith ; and *^ 
when they are connected specially with doctrines, as ^' 
in several of the higher mysteries of the Christian faith, 
the sanctity which invests the point of faith itself is 
extended to the external narrative in which it is em- 
bodied ; the reverence due to the mystery renders the 
external events sacred from examination, and shields 
them also within the pale of the sanctuary ; the 
miracles are merged in the doctrines with which they 
are connected, and associated with the declarations of 
spiritual things which are, as such, exempt from those 
criticisms to which physical statements would be 
necessarily amenable. 

But even in a reasoning point of view, those who 
insist most on the positive external proofs, allow that 
moral evidence is distinguished from demonstrative, not 
only in that it admits of decrees, but more especially 
in that the same moral argument is of different force 
to different minds. And the advocate of Christian evi- 
dence triumphs in the acknowledgment that the 
strength of Christianity lies in the variety of its evi- 
dences, suited to all varieties of apprehension ; and, 
that, amid all the diversities of conception, those who 
cannot appreciate some one class of proofs, will always 
find some other satisfactory, is itself the crowning 

With a firm belief in constant supernatural interpo- 
sition, the contemporaries of the Apostles were as much 
blinded to the reception of the gospel, as, with an 
opposite persuasion, others have been at a later period. 
Those who had access to livino- Divine instruction 
were not superior to the prepossessions and ignorance 
of their times. There never existed an ' infallible age' 
of exemption from doubt or prejudice. And if to 
later times records written in the characters of a lon^r 
past epoch are left to be deciphered by the advancing 

144 Study of the Evidences of Clmdianity . 

light of learning and science, — tlie spirit of faith dis- 
covers continually increasing attestation of the Divine 
authority of the truths they include. 

The ' reason of the hope that is in us' is not re- 
stricted to external signs, nor to any one kind of evi- 
dence, but consists of such assurance as may be most 
satisfactory to each earnest individual inquirer's own 
mind. And the true acceptance of the entire revealed 
manifestation of Christianity will be most worthily 
and satisfactorily based on that assurance of 'faith,' 
by which the Apostle affirms ' we stand,' (2 Cor. ii. 24), 
and which, in accordance with his emphatic declara- 
tion, must rest, ' not in the wisdom of man, but in 
the power of God.' (i Cor. ii. 5.) 



IN the city of Geneva, once the stronghold of 
the severest creed of the Eeformation, Chris- 
tianity itself has of late years received some very 
rude shocks. But special attempts have been re- 
cently made to counteract their effects and to re- 
organize the Christian congregations upon Evangelical 
principles. In piu'suance of this design, there have 
been delivered and published during the last few 
years a series of addresses by distinguished persons 
I holding Evangelical sentiments, entitled Seances His- 
1 toriques. The attention of the hearers was to be 
I conciliated by the concrete form of these discourses ; 
j the phenomenon of the historical Christianity to be 
presented as a fact which could not be ignored, and 
which must be acknowledged to have had some special 
source ; while, from time to time, as occasion offered, 
the more peculiar views of the speakers were to be in- 
stilled. But before this panorama of historic scenes 
had advanced beyond the period of the fall of hea- 
thenism in the West, there had emerged a remarkable 
discrepancy between the views of two of the authors, 
otherwise agreeing in the main. 

It fell to the Comte Leon de Gasparin to illustrate 
the reign of Constantine. He laid it down in the 
strongest manner, that the individualist principle 
supplies the true basis of the Church, and that by 
^inaugurating the union between Church and State 

146 Seances Mistoriques de Geneve. 

Constantine introduced into Christianity the false 
and pagan principle of Multitudinism. M. Bungener 
followed in two lectures upon the age of Ambrose and 
Theodosius. He felt it necessary, for his own satis- 
faction and that of others, to express his dissent from 
these opinions. He agreed in the portraiture drawn by 
his predecessor of the so-called first Christian emperor, 
and in his estimate of his personal character. But he 
maintained, that the multitudinist principle was not 
unlawful, nor essentially pagan ; that it was reco- 
gnised and consecrated in the example of the Jewish 
theocracy ; that the greatest victories of Christianity 
have been won by it ; that it showed itself under 
Apostolic sanction as early as the day of Pentecost ; — 
for it would be absurd to suppose the three thousand 
who were joined to the Church on the preaching of 
Peter to have been all ' converted' persons in the 
modern Evangelical sense of the word. He especially 
pointed out, that the Churches which claim to be 
founded upon Individualism, fall back themselves, 
when they become hereditary, upon the multitudi- 
nist principle. His brief, but very pertinent obser- 
vations on that subject were concluded in these 
words : — 

' Le multitudinisme est une force qui pent, comme I 
toute force, etre mal dirigee, mal exploitee, mais qui 
pent aussi I'etre au profit de la verite, de la piete, de 
la vie. Les Eglises fondees sur un autre principe ont 
aide a rectifier celui-la ; c'est un des incontestables 
services qu'elles ont rendus, de nos jours, a la cause de 
I'Evangile. Elles ont droit a notre reconnaissance ; 
mais a Geneve, qu'elles ne nous demandent pas ce que 
nous ne pouvons faire, et qu'on me permette de le 
dire, ce qu'elles ne font pas elles-memes. Oui ! le 
multitudinisme genevois est reste vivant chez elles, et 
certainement elles lui doivent une portion notable de 
leur consistance au dedans, de leur influence au dehors. | 
Elles font appel, comme nous, a ses souvenirs et a ses 

TJie National Church. 147 

gloires ; elles ferment, avec nous, ce que le moncle 
Chretien appelle et appellera toujours V Eylise de Geneve. 
Nous ne ]a renions, au fond, pas plus les uns que les 
autres. Elle a ete, elle est, elle restera notre mere 
a tous.'^ 

Such are the feelings in favour of Nationalism on 
tlie part of M. Bungener, a member of the Genevan 
Church ; a Church to which many would not even con- 
cede that title, and of which the ecclesiastical renown 
centres upon one great name ; while the civil history 
of the country presents but little of interest either in 
ancient or modern times. But the questions at issue 
between these two Genevans are of wide Christian 
concern, and especially to ourselves. If the Genevans 
cannot be proud of their Calvin, as they cannot in all 

(4hings — and even he is not truly their own — they have 
little else of which to speak before Christendom. Very 
different are the recollections which are awakened by 
the past history of such a Church as ours. Its 
roots are found to penetrate deep into the history of 
the most freely and fully developed nationality in the 
world, and its firm hold upon the past is one of its 
best auguries for the futm-e. It has lived through 
Saxon rudeness, Norman rapine, baronial oppression 
and bloodshed ; it has survived the tyranny of Tudors, 
recovered from fanatical assaults, escaped the trea- 

j cilery of Stuarts ; has not perished under coldness, 

I nor been stifled with patronage, nor sunk utterly in a 
(lull age, nor been entirely depraved in a corrupt one. 
Neither as a spiritual society, nor as a national 

\ institution, need there be any fear that the Church 
of this country, which has passed through so many 
ordeals, shall succumb, because we may be on the 
verge of some political and ecclesiastical changes. We, 
ourselves, cohere with those who have preceded us, 
under very different forms of civil constitution, and 

' Seances Sisiot'iques de Geneve — Le Christianisme au 4/eme 
Siecle, p. 153. 

L % 


148 Seances Historiques de Geneve. 

under a very different creed and externals of worship. 
The ' rude forefathers/ whose mouldering bones, layer 
upon layer, have raised the soil round the foundations 
of our old churches, adored the Host, worshipped the 
Virgin, signed themselves with the sign of the cross, 
sprinkled themselves with holy water, and paid money 
for masses for the relief of souls in purgatory. But it 
is no reason, because we trust that spiritually we are 
at one with the best of those who have gone before us 
in better things than these, that we should revert to 
their old-world practices ; nor should we content our- 
selves with simply transmitting to those who shall 
follow us, traditions which have descended to ourselves, 
if we can transmit soraethino- better. There is a time 
for building up old waste places, and a time for raisin,^ 
fresh structures ; a time for repairing the ancient j 
paths, and a time for filling the valleys and lowering ' 
the hills in the constructing of new. The Jews, con- 
temporaries of Jesus and his Apostles, were fighters 
against God, in refusing to accept a new application 
of tilings Avritten in the Law, the Prophets, and the 
Psalms ; the Romans in the time of Theodosius were 
fighters against Him, when they resisted the new 
religion with an appeal to old customs ; so were the 
opponents of Wycliti'e and his English Bible, and the 
opponents of Cranmer and his Peformation. Meddle 
not with them that are given to change is a warning 
for some times, and self-willed persons may ' bring in 
damnable heresies ;' at others, ' old things are to pass 
away,' and that is erroneously ' called heresy ' by the 
blind, which is really a worshipping the God of the \ 
Fathers in a better way. 

When signs of the times are beheld, foretelling 
change, it behoves those who think they perceive 
them to indicate them to others, not in any spirit of 
presumption or of haste ; and, in no spirit of presump- \ 
tion, to suggest inquiries as to the best method oi \ 
adjusting old things to new conditions. 

The National Church. 149 

Many evils are seen in various ages, if not to have 
issued directly, to have been intimately linked with 
the Christian profession — such as religious wars, per- 
secutions, delusions, impositions, spiritual tyrannies ; 
many goods of civilization in our own day, when 
men have run to and fro and knowledge has 
been increased, have apparently not the remotest 
connexion with the Grospel. Hence grave doubts arise 
in the minds of really well-meaning persons, whether 
the secular future of humanity is necessarily bound 
up with the diffusion of Christianity — whether the 
Church is to be hereafter the life-giver to human 
society. It would be idle on the part of religious 
advocates to treat anxieties of this kind as if they were 
forms of the old Voltairian anti-Christianism. They 
are not those affectations of difficulties whereby vice 
endeavours to lull asleep its fears of a judgment 
to come ; nor are they the pretensions of ignorant 
and presumptuous spirits, making themselves wise 
beyond the limits of man's wisdom. Even if such 
were, indeed, the sources of the wide-spread doubts 
respecting traditional Christianity which prevail in 
our own day, it would be very injudicious polemic 
whicli should content itself with denouncing the 
wickedness, or expressing pity for the blindness, of 
those who entertain them. An imputation of evil 
motives may embitter an opponent and add gall to 
controversy, but can never dispense with the necessity 
for replying to his arguments, nor with the advisable- 
ness of neutralizing his objections. 

If anxieties respecting the future of Christianity, 
and the ofiice of the Christian Church in time to 
come, were confined to a few students or speculative ^ 
philosophers, they might be put aside as mere theore- 
tical questions ; if rude criticisms upon the Scriptures, 
of the Tom Paine kind, proceeding from agitators of 
the masses, or from uninstructed persons, were the 
only assaults to which the letter of the Bible was ex- 

150 Seances Historiques de Geneve. 

posed, it might be thought, that further instruction 
would impart a more reverential and submissive spirit : 
if lay people only entertained objections to established 
formularies in some of their parts, a self-satisfied 
sacerdotalism, confident in a supernaturally trans- 
mitted illumination, might succeed in keeping peace 
within the walls of emptied churches. It may not 
be very easy, by a statistical proof, to convince 
those whose preconceptions indispose them to admit 
it, of the fact of a very wide-spread alienation, both of 
educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity 
which is ordinarily presented in our churches and 
chapels. Whether it be their reason or their moral 
sense which is shocked by what they hear there, the 
ordinances of public worship and religious instruction 
provided for the people of England, alike in the en- 
dowed and unendowed churches, are not used by them 
to the extent we should expect, if they valued them very 
highly, or if they were really adapted to the wants of 
their nature as it is. And it has certainly not hitherto 
received the attention which such a grave circumstance 
demanded, that a number equal to five millions and 
a quarter of persons, should have neglected to attend 
means of public worsliip within their reach on the 
census Sunday in 1851 ; these five millions and a 
quarter being forty-two per cent, of the whole number 
able and with opportunity of then attending. As an 
indication, on the other hand, of a great extent of 
dissatisfaction on the part of the clergy to some 
portion, at least, of the formularies of the Church 
of England, may be taken the fact of the existence 
of various associations to procure their revision, or 
some liberty in their use, especially that of omitting 
one unhappy creed. 

It is generally the custom of those who wish to 
ignore the necessity for grappling with modern ques- 
tions concerning Biblical interpretation, the construc- 
tion of the Christian Creed, the position and prospects 

Tlie National Church. 151 

of the Cliristian Church, to represent the disposition 
to entertain them as a disease contracted by means 
of German inocuhition. At other times, indeed, the 
tables are turned, and theological inquirers are to be 
silenced with the reminder, that in the native land of 
the modern scepticism, Evangelical and High Lutheran 
reactions have already put it down. It may be, that 
on these subjects we shall in England be much in- 
debted, for some time to come, to the patience of 
German investigators ; but we are by no means likely 
to be mystified by tlieir philosophical speculations, nor 
to be carried away by an inclination to force all facts 
within the sweep of some preconceived comprehensive 
theory. If the German Biblical critics have gathered 
together much evidence, the verdict will have to be 
pronounced by the sober English judgment. But, in 
fact, the influence of this foreign literature extends to *' 
comparatively few among us, and is altogether in- 
sufficient to account for the wide spread of that 
which has been called the negative theology. This 
is rather owing to a spontaneous recoil, on the 
part of large numbers of the more acute of our 
population, from some of the doctrines which are to ■*• 
be heard at church and chapel; to a distrust of the old 
arguments for, or proofs of, a miraculous Eevelation ; 
and to a misgiving as to the authority, or extent oi 
the authority, of the Scriptures. In the presence of 
real difficulties of this kind, probably of genuine 
English growth, it is vain to seek to check that open 
discussion out of which alone any satisfactory settle- 
ment of them can issue. 

There may be a certain amount of literature circula- 
ting among us in a cheap form, of which the purpose, 
with reference to Christianity, is simply negative and n, 
destructive, and which is characterized by an absence 
of all reverence, not only for beliefs, but for the best 
human feelings which have gathered round them, 
even when they have been false or superstitious. But 

152 Seances Ilistoriques de Geneve. 

if those who are old enough to do so would compare 
the tone generally of the sceptical publications of the 
present day with that of the papers of Hone and 
others about forty years ego, they would be reminded, 
that assaults were made then upon the Christian 
religion in far grosser form than now, and long before 
opinion could have been inoculated by German philo- 
sophy — lono- before the more celebrated criticisms 
upon the details of the Evangelical histories had 
appeared. But it was attacked then as an institution, 
or by reason of the unpopularit}^ of institutions and 
methods of government connected, or supposed to be 
connected, with it. The anti-christian agitation of 
that day in England was a phase of radicalism, and of 
a radicalism which was a terrific and uprooting force, 
of which the (iounterpart can scarcely be said to exist 
among us now. 

Tlie sceptical movements in this generation are the 
result of observation and thought, not of passion. 
Things come to the knowledge of almost all persons, 
which were unknown, a generation ago, even to the 
well informed. Thus the popular knowledge, at that 
time, of the surface of the earth, and of the populations 
which cover it, was extremely incomplete. In our 
own boyhood the world as known to the ancients was 
nearl}^ all which was known to ourselves. We have 
recently become acquainted — intimate — with the teem ■ 
ing regions of the far East, and with empires, pagan 
or even atheistic, of which the origin runs far back 
beyond the historic records of Judsea or of the West, 
and which were more populous than all Christendom 
now is, for many ages before the Christian era. Kot 
any book learning — not any proud exaltation of reason 
A^, — not any dreamy German metaphysics — not any 
^'' ' minute and captious Biblical criticism — suggest ques- 
tions to those who on Sundays hear the reading and ex- 
joosition of the Scriptures as they were expounded to 
our forefathers, and on Monday peruse the news of a 

The National Church. 153 

world of wliicli our forefathers little dreamed ; — de- 
scriptions of great nations, in some senses barbarous 
compared with ourselves, but composed of men of flesh 
and blood like our own — of like passions, marrying 
and domestic, congregating in great cities, buying and 
selling and getting gain, agriculturists, merchants, 
manufacturers, making wars, establishing dynasties, 
falling down before objects of worship, constituting 
priesthoods, binding themselves by oaths, honouring 
the dead. In what relation does the Gospel stand to 
these millions ? Is there any trace on the face of its 
records that it even contemplated their existence ? 
We are told, that to know and believe in Jesus Christ 
is in some sense necessary to salvation. It has not 
been given to these. Are they — will they be, here- 
after, the worse off for their ignorance? As to 
abstruse points of doctrine concerning the Divine 
Nature itself, those subjects may be thought to lie 
beyond the range of our fciculties ; if one says, aye, 
no other is entitled to say no to his aye ; if one says, 
no, no one is entitled to say aye to his no. Besides, 
the best approximative illustrations of those doctrines 
must be sought in metaphysical conceptions, of which 
few are capable, and in the histor}^ of old controversies, 
with which fewer still are acquainted. But with re- 
spect to the moral treatment of His creatures by 
Almighty God, all men, in different degrees, are able 
to be judges of the representations made of it, by reason 
of the moral sense which He has given them. As to 
the necessity of faith in a Saviour to these peoples, 
when they could never have had it, no one, upon re- 
flection, can believe in any such thing — doubtless they 
will be equitably dealt with. And when we hear fine 
distinctions drawn between covenanted and uncove- 
nanted mercies, it seems either to be a distinction 
without a difference, or to amount to a denial of the 
broad and equal justice of the Supreme Being. We 
cannot be content to wrap this question up and leave 

154 Seances Historiques de Geneve. 

it for a mystery, as to what shall become of those 
myriads upon myriads of non-christian races. First, if 
our traditions tell us, that thev are involved in the 
curse and perdition of Adam, and may justly be 
punished hereafter individually for his transgression, 
not having been extricated from it by saving faith, vv- e 
are disposed to think, that our traditions cannot herein 
fairly declare to us the words and inferences from Scrip- 
ture ; but if on examination it should turn out that 
they have, we must say, that the authors ol" the 
» Scriptural books have, in those matters, represented to 

^ ""^ us their own inadequate conceptions, and not the mind 
of the Spirit of God ; for we must conclude with the 
Apostle, ' Yea, let God be true and every man a liar.' 
If, indeed, we are at liberty to believe, that all shall 
be equitably dealt with according to their opportu- 
nities, whether they have heard or not of the name of 
Jesus, then we can acknowledge the case of the 
Christian and non-Christian populations to be one of 
' difference of advantages. And, of course, no account 
can be given of the principle which determines the 
unequal distribution of the divine benefits. The ex- 
hibition of the divine attributes is not to be brought 
to measure of numbers or proportions. But human 
statements concernin"- the dealino-s of God wdtli man- 


kind, hypotheses and arguments about them, may 
very usefully be so tested. Truly, the abstract or 
philosophical difficulty may be as great concerning a 
small number of persons unprovided for, or, as might 
be inferred from some doctrinal statements, not equi- 
tably dealt with, in the divine dispensations, as con- 
cerning a large one ; but it does not so force itself 
on the imagination and heart of the generality of 
observers. The difficulty, though not new in itself, is 
new as to the great increase in the numbers of those 
who feel it, and in the practical urgency for discover- 
ing an answer, solution, or neutralization for it, if we 
would set many unquiet souls at rest. 

TJie National Church. 155 

From the same source of the advance of general 
knowledge respecting the inhabitancy of the world 
issues another inquiry concerning a promise, prophecy, 
or assertion of Scripture. For the commission of 
Jesus to his Apostles was to preach the gospel to ' all 
nations,' ' to every creature ;' and St. Paul says of the 
gentile world, ' But I say have they not heard ? 
Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and 
their words unto the ends of the world,' (Horn. x. 18), 
and speaks of the gospel ' which was preached to every 
nation under Heaven,' (Col. i. 23), when it has never 
yet been preached even to the half. Then, again, it 
has often been appealed to as an evidence of the 
supernatural origin of Christianity, and as an instance 
of supernatural assistance vouchsafed to it in the first 
centuries, that it so soon overspread the world. It 
has seemed but a small leap of about three hundred 
years to the age of Constantine, if in that time, not 
to insist upon the letter of the texts already quoted, 
the conversion of the civilized world could be accom- 
plished. It ma}^ be known only to the more learned, 
that it was not accomplished with respect to the 
Roman empire even then ; that the Cliristians of the 
East cannot be ftiirly computed at more than half the 
population, nor the Christians of the West at so much 
as a third, at the commencement of that emperor's 
reign. But it requires no learning to be aware that 
neither then nor subsequently have the Christians 
amounted to more than a fourth part of the people of 
the earth; and it is seen to be impossible to appeal 
any longer to the wonderful spread of Christianity in 
the three first centuries, as a special evidence of the 
wisdom and goodness of God. 

So likewise a very grave modification of an 'evidence' -4. 
heretofore current must ensue in another respect, in 
consequence of an increased knowledge of other facts 
connected with the foregoing. It has been customary 
to argue that, a j^riori, a supernatural revelation was to 

156 Seances Historiqites de Geneve. 

be expected at the time when Jesus Christ was mani- 
fested upon the earth, by reason of the exhaustion of 
all natural or unassisted human efforts for the ameli- 
oration of mankind. The state of the world, it has 
been customary to say, had become so utterly corrupt 
and hopeless under the Eoman sway, that a necessity 
and special occasion was presented for an express divine 
intervention. Our recently enlarged ethnographical 
information shows such an argument to be altogether 
inapplicable to the case. If we could be judges of the 
necessity for a special divine intervention, the stronger 
necessity existed in the East. There immense popula- 
tions, like the Chinese, had never developed the idea 
of a personal God, or had degenerated from a once 
pure theological creed, as in India, froni the rehgion 
of the Vedas. Oppressions and tyrannies, caste-dis- 
tinctions, common and enormous vices, a polluted 
idolatrous worship, as bad as the worst which dis- 
graced Eome, Greece, or Syria, had prevailed for ages. 
It would not be very tasteful, as an exception to 
this description, to call Buddhism the gospel of India, 
preached to it five or six centuries before the Gospel 
of Jesus was proclaimed in the nearer East. But on 
the whole it would be more like the realities of things, 
as we can now behold them, to say that the Christian 
revelation was given to the western world, because it 
deserved it better and was more prepared for it than 
the East. Philosophers, at least, had anticipated in 
speculation some of its dearest hopes, and had prepared 
the way for its self-denying ethics. 

There are many other sources of the modern ques- 
tionings of traditional Christianity which cannot now 
be touched upon, originating like those which have been 
mentioned, in a change of circumstances wherein ob- 
;^ servers are placed; whereby their thoughts are turned in 
new directions, and they are rendered dissatisfied with 
old modes of speaking. But such a difficulty as that 
respecting the souls of heathendom, which must now 


The National Church. 157 

come closely home to multitudes among us, will dis- 
appear, if it be candidly acknowledged that the words 
of the New Testament, which speak of the preaching ^ ^ , 
of the Gospel to the whole world, were limited to the "^^^^ 
understanding of the times when they were spoken ; 
that doctrines concerning salvation, to be met with in 
it, are for the most part applicable only to those to 
whom the preaching of Christ should come ; and that 
we must draw our conclusions respecting a just 
dealing hereafter with the individuals wdio make up 
the sum of heathenism, rather from reflections sug- ■'- 
gested by our own moral instincts than from the ex- 
press declarations of Scripture writers, who had no 
such knowledge, as is given to ourselves, of the ampli- 
tude of the world, which is the scene of the divine 

Moreover, to our great comfort, there have been 
preserved to us words of the Lord Jesus himself, de- 
claring: that the conditions of men in another world 
will be determined by their moral characters in this, 
and not by their hereditary or traditional creeds ; and 
both many words and the practice of the great Apostle 
Paul, within the range which was given him, tend to 
the same result. He has been thought even to make 
an allusion to the Buddhist Dharinma, or law, when 
he said, ' When the gentiles which have not the law 
do by nature the things contained in the law, these 
having not the law are a law unto themselves, which 
show the work of the law written in their hearts,' &c. 
(Hom. i. 14 15.) However this may be, it is evident 
that if such a solution as the above is accepted, a 
variety of doctrinal statements hitherto usual, Cal- 
vinistic and Lutheran theories on the one hand, and 
sacramental and hierarchical ones on the other, must 
be thrown into the background, if not abandoned. 

There may be a long future during which the 
present course of the world shall last. Instead of its 
drawing near the close of its existence, as repre- 

158 Seances Historiques de Geneve. 

sented in Millennarian or Eabbinical fables, and with 
so many more souls, according to some interpreta- 
tions of the Gospel of Salvation, lost to Satan in 
every age and in every nation, than have been won 
to Christ, that the victory would evidently be on the 
side of the Fiend, we may yet be only at the com- 
mencement of the career of the great Spiritual Con- 
queror, even in this world. Nor have we any right to 
say that the effects of what He does upon earth shall 
not extend and propagate themselves in worlds to 
come. But under any expectation of the duration 
of the present secular constitution, it is of the deepest 
interest to us, both as observers and as agents, placed 
evidently at an epoch when humanity finds itself 
^ under new conditions, to form some definite con- 
ception to ourselves of the way in which Christianity 
is henceforward to act upon the world which is our 

Different estimates are made of the beneficial effects 
already wrought by Christianity upon the secular as- 
pect of the world, according to the different points of 
view from which it is regarded. Some endeavour, 
from an impartial standing point, to embrace in one 
panorama the whole religious history of mankind, of 
which Christianity then becomes the most important 
phase ; others can only look at such a history from 
within some narrow chamber of doctrinal and eccle- 
siastical prepossessions. And anticipations equally 
different for like reasons will be entertained by per- 
sons differently imbued, as to the form under which, 
and the machinery by which, it shall hereafter be 
presented with success, either to the practically un- 
christianized populations of countries like our own, 
or to peoples of other countries never as yet even 
nominally christianized. 

Although the consequences of what the Gospel does 
will be carried on into other worlds, its work is to be 
done here ; although some of its work here must be un- 

The National Church. 159 

seen, yet not all; nor much even of its unseen work with- 
out at least some visible manifestation and effects. The 
invisible Church is to us a mere abstraction. Now it 
is acknowlecVed on all hands, that to the multitudinist 
principle are due the great external victories which the 
Christian name has hitherto won. On the other hand, 
it is alleged by the advocates of Individualism, that 
these outward acquisitions and numerical accessions 
have always been made at the expense of the purity 
of the Church ; and, also, that Scriptural authority 
and the earliest practice is in favour of Individualism. 
Moreover, almost all the corruptions of Christianity 
are attributed by individualists to the effecting by 
the Emperor Constantine of an unholy alliance 
between Church and State. Yet a fair review, as far 
as there are data for it, of the state of Christianity 
before the time of that emperor will leave us in at least 
very great doubt, whether the Christian character was 
really, in the anterior period, superior on the average 
to what it has subsequently been. We may appeal 
to the most ancient records extant, and even to the 
Apostolic Epistles themselves, to show, that neither 
in doctrine nor in morals did the primitive Christian 
communities at all approach to the ideal which has 
been formed of them. The moral defects of the 
earliest converts are the subject of the gravest expostu- 
lation on the part of the Apostolic writers : and the 
doctrinal features of the early church are much more 
undetermined than would be thought by those who 
read them only through the ecclesiastical creeds. 

Those who belong to very different theological schools 
acknowledge at times, that they cannot with any cer- 
tainty find in the highest ecclesiastical antiquity the 
dogmas which they consider most important. It is 
customary with Lutherans to represent their doctrine 
of justification by subjective faith as having died out 
shortly after the Apostolic age. In fact, it never was 
the doctrine of any considerable portion of the Church 


160 Seances Hisforiques de Geneve. 

till the time of the Eeformation. It is not met with 
in the immediately post-Apostolic writings, nor in the 
Apostolic writings, except those of St. Paul, not even 
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is of the Pauline 
or Paulo- Johannean school. The faith at least of that 
Epistle, ' the substance of things hoped for,' is a very 
different faith from the faith of the Epistle to the 
Romans, — if the Lutherans are correct in representing 
that to be, a conscious apprehending of the benefits 
to the individual soul, of the Saviour's merits and 
passion. Then, on the other hand, it is admitted, 
even maintained, by a very different body of theolo- 
gians, as by the learned Jesuit Petavius and many 
others, that the doctrine afterwards developed into the 
Nicene and Athanasian, is not to be found explicitly 
in the earliest Fathers, nor even in Scripture, although 
provable by it. One polemical value of this view to 
those wdio uphold it, is to show the necessity of an 
ins])ired Church to develope Catholic truth. 

But although the primitive Christians fell far short 
both of a doctrinal and ethical ideal, there is this 
remarkable distinction to be noted between the primi- 
tive aspects of doctrine and of ethics. The morals of 
the first Christians were certainly very far below 
the estimate which has been formed of them ; but 
the standard by which they were measured w^as un- 
varying, lofty, and peculiar; moreover, the nearer we 
approach to the fountain head, the more definite do 
we find the statement of the Christian principle, that 
the source of religion is in the heart. On the contrary, 
the nearer we come to the original sources of the 
history, the less definite do we find tlie statements of 
doctrines, and even of tlie facts from which the doc- 
trines were afterwards inferred. And, at the very first, 
with our Lord Himself and His Apostles, as repre- 
sented to us in the Kew Testament, morals come 
beibre contemplation, ethics before theoretics. In the 
patristic writings, theoretics assume continually an 


The National Church. IGl 

increasingly disproportionate value. Even within 
the compass of our New Testament there is to be 
found already a wonderful contrast between the words 
of our Lord and such a discourse as the Epistle to 
the Hebrews. There is not wanting, indeed, to this 
Epistle an earnest moral appeal, but the greater 
part of it is illustrative, argumentative, and contro- 
versial. Our Lord's discourses have almost all of 
them a direct moral bearing. This character of His 
words is certainly more obvious in the three first 
Gospels than in the fourth ; and the remarkable 
unison of those Gospels, when they recite the Lord's 
words, notwithstanding their discrepancies in some 
matters of fact, compel us to think, that they embody 
more exact traditions of what He actually said than 
the fourth does.^ 

As monuments or witnesses, discrepant in a certain 
degree as to otlier particulars, the evidence afforded 
by the three Synoptics to the Lord's own words is 
the most precious element in the Christian records. 
We are thereby placed at the very root of the Gospel 
tradition. And these words of the Lord, taken in con- 
junction with the Epistle of St. James, and with the 
first, or genuine, Epistle of St. Peter, leave no reason- 
able doubt of the general character of His teaching 

' The fourth Gospel has always been supposed to have been written with 
a controversial purpose, and not to have been composed till from sixty to 
seventy years alter the events which it undertakes to narrate ; some critics, 
indeed, think it was not of a date anterior to the year 140, and that it pre- 
supposes opinions of a Valentinian character, or even Montanist, which would 
make it later still. At any rate it cannot, by external evidence, be attached 
to the pei'son of St. John as its author, in the sense wherein moderns under- 
stand the word author : that is, there is no proof that St. John gives his 
voucher as an eye and ear witness of all which is related in it. Many 
persons shrink from a hona fide examination of the ' Gospel question,' 
because they imagine, that unless the four Gospels are received as perfectly 
genuine and authentic — that is, entirely the composition of the persons 
whose names they bear, and without any admixture of legendary matter 
or embellishment in their narratives, the only alternative is to suppose a 
fraudulent design in those who did compose them. This is a su]>position 
from which common sense, and the moral instinct, alike revolt; but it is 
happily not an only alternative. 


162 Seances Tlistoriqiies de Geneve. 

having been what, for want of a better word, we must 
perhaps call moral. But to represent the Spirit of 
Christ as a moral Spirit is not merely to proclaim 
Him as a Lawgiver, enacting the observance of a set 
of precepts, but as fulfilled with a Spirit given to Him 
* without measure,' of which, indeed, all men are par- 
takers who have a sense of what they ' ought' to be 
and do ; yet flowing over from Him, especially on 
those who j^erceive in His words, and in His life, 
principles of ever- widening application to the circum- 
stances of their own existence ; who learn from Him 
to penetrate to the root of their conscience, and to 
recognise themselves as being active elements in the 
moral order of the universe. 

We may take an illustration of the relative value 
in the Apostolic age of the doctrinal and moral prin- 
ciples, by citing a case whicli will be allowed to be 
extreme enough. It is evident there were among the 
Christian converts in that earliest period, those who had 
no belief in a corporeal resurrection. Some of these 
had, perhaps, been made converts from the sect of 
the Sadducees, and had brought with them into the 
Christian congregation the same doubts or negative 
beliefs which belonged to them before their conver- 
sion. The Jewish church embraced in its bosom both 
Pharisees and Sadducees : but our Lord, although 
he expressly taught a resurrection, and argued with 
the Sadducees on the subject, never treated them as 
aliens from Israel because they did not hold that doc- 
trine ; is much more severe on the moral defects and 
hypocrisies of the Pharisees than upon the doctrinal 
defects of the Sadducees. The Christian Church was 
recruited in its Jewish branch chiefly from the sect of 
the Pharisees, and it is somewhat difficult for us to 
realize the conversion of a Sadducee to Christianity, 
retaining his Sadducee disbelief or scepticism. But, 
the ' some among you who say that there is no re- 
surrection of the dead,' (i Cor. xv. 12, comp. 3 Tim. 

The National Church. 163 

ii. 18), can leave us in no doubt upon the matter, 
tliat there were Christians of Sadducee or Gentile pre- 
judices, like those who mocked or those who hesitated 
when Paul preached at Athens the resurrection of the 
dead. But St. Paul argues with such elaborately in 
that chapter, without expelling them from the Church, 
although he always represents faith in the resurrec- 
tion as the corner-stone of the Christian belief. He 
endeavours rather to conciliate and to remove objec;- 
tions. First, he represents the rising to life again, 
not as miraculous or exceptional, but as a law of 
humanity, or at least of Christian and spiritualized 
humanity ; and he treats the resurrection of Christ, 
not as a wonder, but as a prerogative instance. 
Secondly, he shows, upon the doctrine of a spiritual 
body, how the objections against a resurrection from 
the gross conception of a flesh and blood body, fall to 
the ground.^ Now, if there might thus be Sadducee, 
or quasi-Sadducee, Christians in the Church, their 
Christianity must have consisted in an appreciation of 
the moral spirit of Jesus, and in an obedience, such 
as it might be, to the Christian precepts ; they could 
have been influenced by no expectation of a future 
recorapence. Their obedience might or might not 
be of as high an order as that which is so motived ; 
it might have been a mere legal habit, or an exalted 
disinterested life. Now, let us compare a person of 
this description with such as those who are indicated, 
(1 Cor. XV. 19, 32) ; and we cannot think that St. Paul 
is there speaking of himself personally, but of the 
general run of persons reluctant to exercise self-re- 
straint and to expose themselves to persecution for the 
Gospel's sake, yet induced to do so by the hope of a 

* So in Luke xx. 27-35, the Sadducees are dealt with in a like argumen- 
tative manner. They understood the doctrine of the resurrection to imply 
the rising of men with such bodies as they now have ; the case supposed by 
them loses its point when the distinction is revealed between the animal 
and the angelic bodies. 

M 2 

164 Seances Historiques de Geneve. * 

future reward. Let us consider these two de- 
scriptions of persons. The one class is defective in 
the Christian doctrine, and in the most fundamental 
article of the Apostle's preaching, the other in the 
Christian moral life ; can we say that the one defect 
was more fatal than the other ? We do not find the 
Apostle excommunicating these Corinthians, who said 
there was no resurrection of the dead.^ On the other 
hand, we know it was only in an extreme case that 
he sanctioned excommunication for the cause of 
immorality. And upon the whole, if we cannot 
effectually compare the person deficient in a true 
belief of the resurrection, with an immoral or evil 
liver — if we can only say they were both bad Chris- 
tians — at least we have no reason to determine that 
the good liver who disbelieved the resurrection was 
treated by St. Paul as less of a Christian than the 
evil liver who believed it. We cannot suppose the 
evil life always to have brought on the disbelief in the 
doctrine, nor the disbelief in the doctrine to have 
issued always in an evil life. 

Now, from what has been said we gather two im- 
portant conclusions : — first, of the at least equal value 
i^ of the Christian life, as compared with the Christian 
doctrine ; and, secondly, of the retaining within the 
Church, both of those who were erroneous and defec- 
tive in doctrine, and of those who were by their lives 
unworthy of their profession ; they who caused di- 

' St. Paul ' delivered to Satan' (whatever that may mean), llymeiifEus 
who maintained the resurrection to be past already, most likely meaning 
it was only a moral one ; but it does not appear it was for this offence he 
is so mentioned in conjunction with Alexander, and their provocation is not 
described : where he is said to have taught tliat the resurrection is past 
already, he is in companionship with Philetus, and nothing is added of any 
punishment of either. These strange opinions afterwards hardened into 
heretical doctrine. TertuW. de Frcescriptione Har. c. xxxui. Paulus in 
ima ad Corinthios notat negatores et dubitatores resurrectionis. Htec 
opinio propria Sadduca'orum : partem ejus usurpat Marcion et Apelles, et 
Valentinus et si qui ulii resurrectionem carnis inlringunt — a^que tangit eos 
qui dicerent fuctam jam resurrectionem : id de se Valentin! adseveraut. 

The National Church. 165 

visions and heresies were to be marked and avoided 
but not expelled, and if any called a brother were 
a notoriously immoral person, the rest were enjoined, 
no not to eat with him, but he was not to be refused 
the name of brother or Christian, (i Cor. v. ii.) 

It would be difficult to devise a description of a 
multitudinist Church, exhibiting more saliently the 
worst defects which can attend that form, than this 
which is taken from the evidence of the Apostolic 
Epistles. We find the Pauline Churches to have 
comprised, not only persons of the truest doctrinal in- 
sight, of the highest spiritual attainments, of martyr- 
like self-devotion, but of the strangest and most in- 
congruous beliefs, and of the most unequal and incon- 
sistent practice. The individualist could say nothing 
more derogatory of any multitudinist Church, not 
even of a national one ; unless, perhaps, he might say 
this, that less distinction is made within such a 
Church itself, and within all modern Churches, be- 
tween their better and worse members, than was made 
in the Apostolic Churches. Any judicial sentence of 
excommunication was extremely rare in the Apostolic 
age, as we have seen, and the distinction between the 
worthy and unworthy members of the Church was to 
be marked, not by any public and authoritative act, 
but by the operation of private conduct and opinion. 

The Apostolic Churches were thus multitudinist, and 
they early tended to become National Churches ; from 
the first they took collective names from the localities 
where they were situate. And it was natural 
and proper they should, except upon the Calvinistic 
theory of conversion. There is some show of reason- 
able independence, some appearance of applying the 
Protestant liberty of private judgment, in maintaining 
the Christian unlawfulness of the union of Church and 
State, corruption of national establishments, and like 
propositions. But it w dl be found, that where they 
are maintained by serious and religious people, they 

166 Seances Hisforiques de Geneve. 

are parts of a Calvinistic system, and are held in con- 
nexion with pecuhar theories of grace, immediate 
conversion, and arbitrary call. It is as merely a Calvin- 
istic and Congregational commonplace, to speak of the 
unholy union of Church and State accomplished by 
Constantine, as it is a E-omish commonplace, to 
denounce the unholy schism accomplished by Henry 
the Eighth. But in fact both those sovereigns only 
carried out, chiefly for their own purposes, that which 
was already in preparation by the course of events ; 
even Henry would not have broken with the Pope if 
he had not seen the public mind to be in some degree 
ripe for it, nor would Constantine have taken the first 
steps towards an establishment of Christianity, unless 
the empire had already been growing Christian. 

Unhappily, together with his inauguration of Multi- 
tudinism, Constantine also inaugurated a principle 
essentially at variance with it, the principle of 
doctrinal limitation. It is very customary to attribute 
the necessity of stricter definitions of the Christian 
creed from time to time to the rise of successive 
heresies. More correctly, there succeeded to the 
fluid state of Christian opinion in the first century 
after Christ, a gradual hardening and systematizing 
of conflicting views ; and the opportunity of reverting 
to the freedom of the Apostolic and immediately suc- 
ceeding periods, was finally lost for many ages by the 
sanction given by Constantine to the decisions of 
Nicsea, "We cannot now be very good judges, whether 
it would have been possible, together with the esta- 
blishment of Christianity as the imperial religion, to 
enforce forbearance between the great antagonisms 
which were then in dispute, and to have insisted on the 
maxim, that neither had a right to limit the common 
Christianity to the exclusion of the other. At all events 
a principle at variance with a true Multitudinism was 
then recognised. All parties it must be acknowledged 
were equally exclusive. And exclusion and definition 

The National Church. 1G7 

have since been the rule for almost all Churches, more 
or less, even when others of their principles might 
seem to promise a greater freedom. 

That the members of a Calvinistic Church, as in the 
Geneva of Calvin and Beza,orin the Church of Scotland, 
should coincide with the members of the State — that 
' election' and 'effectual call' should be hereditary, is of 
course, too absurd to suppose ; and the congregational 
Calvinists are more consistent than the Calvinists of 
Established Churches. Of Calvinism, as a system of 
doctrine, it is not here proposed to say anything, 
except, that it must of necessity be hostile to every 
other creed; and the members of a Calvinistic Church 
can never consider themselves but as parted by an in- 
superable distinction from all other professors of the 
Gospel ; they cannot stand on a common footing, in 
any spiritual matter, with those who belong to the 
world, that is, with all others than themselves. The 
exclusiveness of a multitudinist Church, which makes, 
as yet, the ecclesiastical creeds the terms of its com- 
munion, may cease when that test or limitation is 
repealed. But the exclusiveness of a Calvinistic 
Church, whether free from the creeds or not, is in- 
herent in its principles. There is no insuperable 
barrier between Congregationalists not being Cal- 
vinists, and a multitudinist Church which should 
liberate itself sufficiently from the traditional symbols. 
Doctrinal limitations in the multitudinist form of 
Church are not essential to it ; upon larger knowledge 
of Christian history, upon a more thorough acquaint- 
ance with the mental constitution of man, upon an 
understanding of the obstacles they present to a true 
Catholicity, they may be cast off. Nor is a multi- 
tudinist Church necessarily or essentially hierarchical, 
in any extreme or superstitious sense ; it can well 
admit, if not pure Congregationalism, a large admix- 
ture of the congregational spirit. Indeed, a com- 
bination of the two principles will alone keep any 

168 Seances Ilistoriques de Geneve. 

Cliurcli in health and vigour. Too great importance 
-V- attached to a hierarchical order will lead into super- 
stitions respecting Apostohcal succession, ministerial 
illumination, supernatural sacramental influence ; mere 
^^ Congregationalism tends to keep ministers and people 
at a dead spiritual level. A just recognition and 
balancing of the two tendencies, allows the emerging of 
the most eminent of the congregation into offices for 
which they are suited ; so that neither are the true 
hierarchs and leaders of thought and manners drawn 
down and made to succumb to a mere democracy, nor 
those clothed in the priests' robe who have no true 
unction from above. And this just balance between the 
hierarchy and the congregation would be at least as 
attainable in the national form of Church as in any 
other, if it were free from dogmatical tests and similar 
intellectual bondage. But there are some prejudices 
against Nationalism which deserve to be farther con- 

It was natural for a Christian in the earliest 
period, to look upon the heathen state in which he 
found himself as if it belonged to the kingdom of 
Satan and not to that of God ; and consecrated as it 
was, in all its offices, to the heathen divinities, to 
consider it a society having its origin from the powers 
of darkness, not from the Lord of light and life. In 
the Apostolic writers this view appears rather in the 
First Epistle of St. John than with St. Paul. The 
horizon which St. John's view embraced was much 
narrower than St. Paul's ; 

Qui mores hominum multorum vidit et urbes. 

If the love felt and inculcated by St. John towards 
the brethren was the more intense, the charity with 
which St. Paul comprehended all men was the more 
ample ; and it is not from every point of view we 
should describe St. John as pre-eminently the Apostle 
of love. With St. Jolui', 'the whole world lieth in 

The Natio7ial Church. 1G9 

wickedness,' while St. Paul exhorts ' prayers and sup- 
plications to be made for all men, for kings, and for all 
that are in authority.' Taking a wide view of the 
world and its history, we must acknowledge political 
constitutions of men to be the work of Grod Himself; 
they are organizations into which human society 
grows by reason of the properties of the elements 
which generate it. But the primitive Christians could 
scarcely be expected to see, that ultimately the Gospel 
was to liave sway in doing more perfectly that which 
the heathen religions were doing imperfectly; that its 
office should be, not only to quicken the spirit of the 
individual and to confirm his future hopes, but to 
sanctify all social relations and civil institutions, and 
to enter into the marrow of the national life ; whereas 
heathenism had only decorated the surface of it. 

Heathendom had its national Churches. Indeed, 
the existence of a national Church is not only a per- 
missible thing, but is necessary to the completion of 
a national life, and has shown itself in all nations, 
when they have made any advance in civilization. It 
has been usual, but erroneous^ to style the Jewish 
constitution a theocracy in a peculiar and exclusive 
sense, as if the combination of the religious and civil 
life had been confined to that people. Even among 
barbarous tribes the fetish-man establishes an authority 
over the rest, quite as much from the yearning of others 
after guidance as from his own superior cunning. 
Priesthoods have always been products. Priests have 
neither been, as some would represent, a set of deli- 
berate conspirators against tlie free thoughts of man- 
kind ; nor on the other hand, have they been the sole 
divinely commissioned channels for communication of 
spiritual truth. If all priests and ministers of religion 
could at one moment be swept from the face of the 
earth they would soon be reproduced. If the human 
race, or a given people — and a recent generation 
saw an instance of something like it in no distant 

170 The National Church. 

nation — were resolved into its elements, and all its 
social and religious institutions shattered to pieces, 
it would reconstruct a political framework and 
a spiritual organization, re-constituting governors, 
laws and magistrates, educators and ministers of 

The distinction between the Jewish people and the 
other nations, in respect of this so-called theocracy, is 
but feebly marked on both sides. For the religious 
element was much stronger than has been supposed 
in other nationalities, and the priesthood was by no 
means supreme in the Hebrew State.' 

Constantly the title occurs in the Hebrew Scrip- 
tures, of ' the Lord's people,' with appeals to Jehovah 
as their Supreme Governor, Protector, and Judge. 
And so it is with polytheistic nations ; they are the 
ofispring of the gods ; the deities are their guides and 
guardians, the authors of their laws and customs j 
whose worship is interwoven with the whole course of 
jDolitical and social life. It will of course be said, the 
entire diiference is no more than this — the object of 
worship in the one case was the true God, in the other 

* Previous to the time of the divided kingdom, the Jewish history pre- 
sents little which is thoroughly reliable. The taking of Jerusalem by 
' Shishak ' is lor the Hebrew history that which the sacking of Rome by 
the Gauls is for the Roman. And from no facts ascertainable is it possible 
to infer there was any earh' period during which the Government by 
the priesthood was attended with success. Indeed the greater pro- 
bability seems on the side of the supposition, that the priesthood, with 
its distinct offices and charge, was constituted by Royalty, and that the 
higher pretensions of the priests were not advanced till the reign of Josiah. 
There is no evidence of the priesthood ever having claimed a supremacy 
over the kings, as if it had been in possession of an oracular power ; in 
the earlier monarchy the kings olier sacrifice, and the rudiments of a 
political and religious organization, which prevailed in the period of the 
Judges, cannot be appealed to as pre-eminentl}' a theocracy. At any rate, 
nothing could be more unsuccessful, as a government, whatever it might 
be called. Indeed, the theory- of the Jewish theocracy seems built chiefly 
upon some expressions in i Sam. viii., xii. Samuel, however, with whose 
government the Israelites were dissatisfied, was not a priest but a prophet ; 
and the whole of that part of the narrative is conceived in the prophetical, 
not iu the priestly interest. 

\ U'- C4t^^ 


The National Church. 171 

cases idols or demons. But it is very clear to unpre- 
judiced persons, that the conceptions which the 
Hebrews formed of Jehovah, though far superior to 
the conceptions embodied in any other national reli- 
gion, were obscured by figurative representations of 
Him in accordance with the character of His wor- 
shippers. The passions ascribed to Him were not those 
most base and degrading ones attributed to their 
deities by the pagans ; and on that account it has been 
less easy to separate tliQ figurative description from 
the true idea of Him. The better pagans could easily 
perceive the stories of their gods to have been, at the 
best, allegories, poetical embellishments, inventions of 
some kind or other. Jews did not perceive that the 
attribution of wrath and jealousy to their God could 
only be by a figure of speech ; and what is worse, it is 
difficult to persuade many Christians of the same 
thing, and solemn inferences from the figurative ex- 
pressions of the Hebrew literature have been crystal- 
lized into Christian doctrine. 

All things sanctioned among the Jews are certainly 
not be imitated by us, nor all pagan institutions to 
be abhorred. In respect of a State religion, Jew and 
Gentile were more alike than has been thought. All | 
nations have exhibited, in some form or another, the ' 
development of a public religion, and have done so by 
reason of tendencies inherent in their nationality. 
The jDarticular form of the religion has been due to 
various causes. Also in periods of transition there 
would, for a time, be a breaking in upon this feature 
of national life. While prophets, philosophers, re- 
formers, were at work, or some new principle winning 
its way, the national uniformity would be disturbed. 
So it was at the first preaching of the Gospel ; St. 
Paul, and the Lord Jesus himself, oft'ered it to the 
Jews as a nation, on the multitudinist principle ; but 
when they put it from them, it must make pro- 
gress by kindling a fire in the earth, even to the 

172 Tlie National Church. 

dividing families, two against tlaree and three against 
two. Thereupon Christians appear for a while to be 
aliens from their countries and commonwealths, but 
only for a while. We must not confound with an 
essential principle of Christianit}'' that which only re- 
sulted from a temporary necessity. The individualist 
principle may have been the right one for a time, and 
under certain circumstances, not consequently the 
right one, under all circumstances, nor even the pos- 
sible one. In this question,, as in that of hierarchy, 
and in various ceremonial discussions, the appeal to a 
particular primitive antiquity is only an appeal from 
the whole experience of Christendom to a partial ex- 
perience limited to a short period. Moreover, as to the 
mind of Jesus himself with respect to Nationalism it is 
fully revealed in those touching words, preserved both 
in the first and third Grospels, 'How often would I have 
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth 
her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.' 

Christianity was therefore compelled, as it were 
against its will, and in contradiction to its proper 
design, to make the first steps in its progress by cut- 
ting across old societies, filtering into the world by 
individual conversions, showing, nevertheless, from 
the very first its multidudinist tendencies ; and before 
it could comprehend countries or cities, embracing 
families and households, the several members of which 
must have been on very different spiritual levels (Acts 
xvi. 31-34). The Koman world was penetrated in the 
first instancebyan individual and domestic Christianity, 
to which was owing the first conversion of our own 
country; in the second or Saxon conversion, the people 
were Christianized en masse. Such conversions as this 
last may not be thought to have been worth much, but 
they were worth the abolition of some of the grossness 
of idolatry ; they effected all of which the subjects of 
them were for the time capable, and prepared the way 
for something better in another generation. The con- 

The National Church. 175 

versions operated by the German Apostle, Boniface, 
were of tlie same multitudinous kind as those of Austin 
and Paulinus in Britain, and for a like reason ; in both 
cases the development of Christianity necessarily fol- 
lowed the forms of the national life. 

In some parts of the West this national and natural 
tendency was counteracted by the shattering which 
ensued upon the breaking up of the Homan empire. 
And in those countries especially which had been 
longest and most closely .connected with Pagan Eome, 
such as Italy itself, Spain, France, the people felt 
themselves unable to stand alone in their sjDiritual in- 
stitutions, and were glad to lean on some other prop 
and centre, so far as was still allowed them. The 
Teutonic Churches were always more free than the 
Churches of the Latinized peoples, though they them- 
selves had derived their Christianity from Boman Mis- 
sionaries ; and among the Teutonic Churches alone has 
a freedom from extraneous dominion as yet established 
itself. For a time even these could only adopt the 
forms of doctrine and practice which were current in 
other parts of the West. But those forms were neither 
of the essence of a national Church, nor even of the 
essence of a Christian Church. A national Church need 
not, historically speaking, be Christian, much less, if it 
be Christian, need it be tied down to particular forms 
which have been prevalent at certain times in Christen- 
dom. That which is essential to a national Church is, 
that it should undertake to assist the spiritual pro- ^ 
gress of the nation and of the individuals of which it 
is composed, in their several states and stages. Not , 
even a Christian Church should expect all those 
who are brought under its influence to be, as a matter ./ 
of fact, of one and the same standard, but should en- ^ 
deavour to raise each according to his capacities, and 
should give no occasion for reactions against itself, 
nor provoke the individualist element into separatism. 
It would do this if it submitted to define itself other- 

174 The National Church. 

wise than by its own nationality — if it represented 
itself as a part rather than a whole, as deriving autho- 
rity and not claiming it, as imitative and not original. 
It will do this also, if while the civil side of the 
nation is fluid, the ecclesiastical side of it is fixed ; if 
thought and speech are free among all other classes, 
and not free among those who hold the office of 
leaders and teachers of the rest in the highest things ; 
if they are to be bound to cover up instead of 
opening ; and having, it is presumed, possession of 
the key of knowledge, are to stand at the door with 
it, permitting no one to enter unless by force. A 
national Church may also find itself in this position, 
which, perhaps, is our own. Its ministers may become 
isolated between two other parties — between those on 
the one hand who draw fanatical inferences from 
formularies and principles which they themselves are 
not able or are unwilling to repudiate ; and on the 
other, those who have been tempted, in impatience of 
old fetters, to follow free thought heedlessly wherever 
it may lead them. If our own Churchmen expect to 
discourage and repress a fanatical Christianity, with- 
out a frank appeal to reason, and a frank criticism of 
Scripture, they will find themselves without any 
effectual arms for that combat ; or if they attempt 
to check inquiry by the repetition of old forms 
and denunciations, they will be equally powerless, 
and run the especial risk of turning into bitter- 
ness the sincerity of those who should be their best 
allies, as friends of truth. They should avail 
themselves of the aid of all reasonable persons 
for enlightening the fanatical religionist, making 
no reserve of any seemingly harmless or apparently 
serviceable superstitions of their own ; they should 
also endeavour to supply to the negative theologian 
some positive elements in Christianity, on grounds 
more sure to him than the assumption of an objective 
' faith once delivered to the saints,' which he cannot 

Tlie National Church. 175 

identify witli the creed of any Church, as yet known 
to him. 

It has heen matter of great boast within the 
Church of Enghmd, in common with other Protestant 
Churches, that it is founded upon the * Word of God,' 
a phrase which begs many a question when appHed col- 
lectively to the books of the Old and New Testaments, 
a phrase which is never so applied to them by any of 
the Scriptural authors, and which, according to Protes- 
tant principles, never could be applied to them by any 
sufficient autliority from without. In that which may 
be considered the pivot Article of the Church this 
expression does not occur, but only ' Holy Scrip- 
ture,' ' Canonical Books,' ' Old and New Testaments.' 
It contains no declaration of the Bible being: throusrh- 
out supernaturally suggested, nor any intimation as 
to which portions of it were owing to a special divine 
illumination, nor the slightest attempt at defining 
inspiration, whetlier mediate or immediate, whether 
through, or beside, or overruling the natural faculties 
of the subject of it, — not the least hint of the relation 
between the divine and human elements in the com- 
position of the Biblical books. Even if the Fathers 
have usually considered ' canonical ' as synonymous 
with ' miraculously inspired,' there is nothing to 
show that their sense of the word must necessarily 
be applied in our own sixth Article. The word itself 
may mean either books ruled and determined by the 
Church, or regulative books ; and the employment of 
it in the Article hesitates between these two significa- 
tions. For at one time ' Holy Scripture' and canoni- 
cal books are those books ' of whose authority never 
was any doubt in the Church,'^ that is, they are ' de- 

' This clause is taken from the Wirteraburg Confession (1552), which 
proceeds : ' Hanc Scripturam crediraus et confiteraur esse oraculura 
Spiritus Sancti, cselestibus testimoniis ita confirmatum, ut ISi Angelus de 
ccelo uliud prcedicaverit, anatheina sit' 

176 The National Church 

termined' books ; and then the other, or uncanonical 
books, are described as those which * the Church doth 
not apply to establish any doctrine,' that is, they are 
not * regulative' books. And if the other principal 
Churches of the Reformation have gone farther in 
definition in this respect than our own, that is no 
reason we should force the silence of our Church into 
unison with their expressed declarations, but rather 
that we should rejoice in our comparative freedom.^ 

The Protestant feeling among us has satisfied itself 
in a blind way with the anti-Roman declaration, that 
*Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to 
salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor 
may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any 
man, that it should be believed as an article of the 
faith,' &c., and without reflecting how very much is 
wisely left open in that Article. For this declaration 
itself is partly negative and partly positive ; as to its 
negative part it declares that nothing — no clause of 
creed, no decision of council, no tradition or exposi- 
i tion — is to be required to be believed on peril of salva- 
\ tion, unless it be Scriptural ; but it does not lay down, 
' that everything which is contained in Scripture must 
be believed on the same peril. Or it may be expressed 
thus : — the Word of God is contained in Scripture, 
whence it does not follow that it is co-extensive with it. 
The Church to which we belong does not put that stum- 
bling block before the feet of her members ; it is their 
own fault if they place it there for themselves, authors 
of their own oflence. Under the terms of the sixth 
f Article one may accept literally, or allegorically, or as 

' Thus the Helvetic Confession states : ' We believe and profess that the 
Canonical Scriptures of the Holy Prophets and Apostles, of the Old and 
New Testaments, are the very Word of God, and have sufficient authority 
from themselves and not i'rom men.' The Saxon Confession refers to 
the creeds as interpreters of Scripture — nos vera fideamplecti omnia scripta 
Prophetarum et Apostolorura ; et quidem in hac ipsa nativa sententia, 
quae expressa est in Syniholis, Apostolico, Nicieno et Athanasiauo. — De 


The National Church. \11 

parable, or poetry, or legend, the story of a serpent 
tempter, of an ass speaking with man's voice, of an 
arresting of the earth's motion, of a reversal of its 
motion, of waters standing in a solid heap, of witches, 
and a variety of apparitions. So, under the terms of 
the sixth Article, every one is free in judgment as to 
the primeval institution of the Sabbath, the univer- J^j\'s ^^ 
sality of the deluge, the confusion of tongues, the cor- ^ ' 
poreal taking up of Elijah into Heaven, the nature of 
angels, the reality of demoniacal possession, the person- 
ality of Satan, and the miraculous particulars of many 
events. So the dates and authorship of the several books 
received as canonical are not determined by any autho- 
rity, nor their relative value and importance. 

Many evils have flowed to the people of England, 
otherwise free enough, from an extreme and too ex- 
clusive Scripturalism. The rudimentary education of 
a large number of our countrymen has been mainly 
carried on by the reading of the Scriptures. They 
are read by young children in thousands of cases, 
where no attempt could be made, even if it were de- 
sired, to accompany the reading with the safeguard of 
a reasonable interpretation. A Protestant tradition 
seems to have prevailed, unsanctioned by any of our 
formularies, that the words of Scripture are imbued v? 
with a supernatural property, by which their true sense 
can reveal itself even to those who, by intellectual or 
educational defect, would naturally be incapable of ap- 
preciating it. There is no book indeed, or collection of 
books, so rich in words which address themselves in- 
telligibly to the unlearned and learned alike. But those 
who are able to do so ought to lead the less educated to 
distinguish between the different kinds of words which 
it contains, between the dark patches of human passion 
and error which form a partial crust upon it, and the 
bright centre of spiritual truth within. 

Some years ago a vehement controversy was carried 
on, whether the Scripture ought to be distributed in this 


178 The National Church. 

country with or witliont note and comment. It was 
a question at issue between two great parties and two 
great organized societies. But those who advocated 
the view which was the more reasonable in itself, did 
so in the interest of an unreasonable theory ; they in- 
sisted on the authority of the Church in an hierarchi- 
cal sense, and carried out their commentations in dry 
catenas of doctrine and precept. On the other side, 
the views of those who were for circulating the Bible 
without note or comment were partly superstitious, 
and partly antagonistic in the way of a protest 
against the hierarchical claim. The Scriptures have 
no doubt been received with sufficient readiness by all 
classes of English people, for there has been something 
very agreeable to some of the feelings of the English- 
man in the persuasion that he possesses, independently 
of priest or clergyman, the whole matter of his religion 
bound up in the four corners of a portable book, 
furnishing him, as he thinks, with an infallible test 
of the doctrine which he hears from his preacher, with 
a substitute for all teaching, if he so pleases, and 
with the complete apparatus necessary, should he 
desire to become the teacher of others in his turn. 
But the result of this immense circulation of the 
Scriptures for many years by all parties, has been 
little adequate to what might have been expected 
beforehand, from the circulation of that which is in 
itself so excellent and divine. 

It is ill to be deterred from giving expression to the 
truth or from prosecuting the investigation of it, from 
a fear of making concessions to revolutionary or cap- 
tious dispositions. For the blame of this captiousness, 
when it exists, lies in part at the door of those who 
ignore the difficulties of others, because they may not 
feel any for themselves. To this w^ant of wisdom on 
the part of the defenders of old opinions is to be 
attributed, that the noting of such differences as are 
to be found in the Evangelical narratives, or in the 

The National Church. 170 

books of Kings and Clironicles, takes the appearance of 
an attack upon a lioly thing. The hke ill consequences 
follow from not acknowledging freely the extent of the 
human element in the sacred books ; for if this were 
freely acknowledged on the one side, the di\nne element 
would be frankly recognised on the other. Grood men — 
and they cannot be good without the Spirit of God — 
may err in facts, be weak in memory, mingle imagi- 
nation with memory, be feeble in inferences, confound 
illustration with argument, be varying in judgment and 
opinion. But the Spirit ol" absolute Truth cannot err 
or contradict Himself, if He speak immediately, even 
in small things, accessories, or accidents. Still less can 
we suppose Him to suggest contradictory accounts, or 
accounts only to be reconciled in the way of hypothesis 
and conjecture. Some things indited by the Holy 
Spirit may appear to relate to objects of which the 
whole cannot be embraced by the human intellect, 
and it may not, as to such objects, be possible to 
reconcile opposite sides of Divine truth. Whether 
this is the general character of Scripture revelations 
is not now the question ; but the theory is supposable 
and should be treated with respect, in regard to some 
portions of Scripture. To suppose, on the other hand, 
a supernatural influence to cause the record of that 
which can only issue in a puzzle, is to lower infinitely 
our conception of the Divine dealings in respect of a 
special revelation. 

Thus it may be attributed to the defect of our 
understandings, that we should be unable altogether 
to reconcile the aspects of the Saviour as presented to 
us in the three first Grospels, and in the writings of St. 
Paul and St. John. At any rate, there were current 
in the primitive Church very distinct Christologies. 
But neither to any defect in our capacities, nor to 
any reasonable presumption of a hidden wise design, 
nor to any partial spiritual endowments in the narra- 
tors, can we attribute the difficulty, if not impossi- 

N 2 

180 The National Church. 

bilit}^, of reconciling the genealogies of St. Matthew 
and St. Lute, or the chronology of the Holy Week, 
or the accounts of the Resurrection ; nor to any 
mystery in the subject-matter can be referred the 
uncertainty in which the New Testament writings 
leave us, as to the descent of Jesus Christ according 
to the flesh, whether by his mother He were of the 
tribe of Judah, or of the tribe of Levi. 

If the national Church is to be true to the multitu- 
dinist principle, and to correspond ultimately to the 
national character, the freedom of opinion which 
belong-s to the Ensrlish citizen should be conceded to 
the English Churchman ; and the freedom which is 
already practically enjoyed by the members of the 
congregation, cannot without injustice be denied to 
its ministers. A minister may rightly be expected to 
know more of theology than the generality, or even 
than the best informed of the laity ; but it is a strange 
ignoring of the constitution of human minds, to expect 
all ministers, however much they may know, to be of 
one opinion in theoreticals, or the same person to be 
subject to no variation of opinion at different periods 
of his life. And it may be worth while to consider 
how far a liberty of opinion is conceded by our exist- 
ing laws, civil and ecclesiastical. Along with great 
openings for freedom it will be found there are some 
restraints, or appearances of restraints, which require 
to be removed. 

As far as opinion privately entertained is concerned, 
the liberty of the English clergyman appears already 
to be complete. For no ecclesiastical person can be 
obliged to answer interrogations as to his opinions, 
nor be troubled for that which he has not actually 
expressed, nor be made responsible for inferences which 
other people may draw from his expressions.^ 

Still, though there may be no power of inquisition 

' The oath ex officio in the ecclesiastical law, is defined to be an oath 
whereby any person nia}'^ be obliged to make any presentment of any 
crime or offence, or to confess or accuse himself or herself of any criminal 

The National Church. 181 

into tlie private opinions either of ministers or people 
in the Churcli of Eng-hxnd, there may be some inter- 
ference with the expression of them ; and a great 
restraint is supposed to be imposed upon the clergy 
by reason of their subscription to the Thirty-nine 
Articles. Yet it is more difficult than might be 
expected, to define what is tlie extent of the legal 
obligation of those who sign them ; and in this 
case the strictly legal obligation is the measure of 
the moral one. Subscription may be thought even 
to be inoperative upon the conscience by reason of its 
vagueness. For the act of subscription is enjoined, 
but its effect or meaning nowhere plainly laid down ; 
and it does not seem to amount to more than an 
acceptance of the Articles of the Church as the formal 
law to which the subscriber is in some sense subject. 
What that subjection amounts to, must be gathered 
elsewhere, for it does not appear on the face of the 
subscription itself. 

The ecclesiastical authority on the subject is to be 

matter or thing, whereby he or she may be liable to any censure, penalty, 
or punishment whatsoever. 4 Jac. ' The lords of the council at White- 
hall demanded of Popham and Coke, chief justices, upon motion made by 
the Commons in Parliament, in what cases the ordinary may examine any 
person ex officio upon oath.' They answered — i. That the ordinary can- 
not constrain any man, ecclesiastical or temporal, to swear generally to 
answer such interrogations as shall be administered to him, &c. 2. That 
no man, ecclesiastical or temporal, shall be examined upon the secret 
thoughts of his heart, or of his secret opinion, but something ought to be 
objected against him, which he hath spoken or done. Thus 13 Jac. 
Dighton and Holt were committed by the high commissioners because they 
being convented for slanderous words against the book of Common Prayer 
and the government of the Church, and being tendered the oath to be 
examined, they refused. The case being brought before the K.B. on habeas 
corpus, Coke, C.J., gave the determination of the Court. ' That they 
ought to be delivered, because their examination is made to cause them to 
accuse themselves of a breach of penal law, which is against law, for 
they ought to proceed against them by witnesses, and not inforce them to 
take an oath to accuse themselves.' Then by 13 Car. 3, c. 12, it was 
enacted, 'that it shall not be lawful for any person, exercising ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction, to tender or administer to any person whatsoever the oath 
usually called the oath ex-officio, or any other oath, whereby such person 
to whom the same is tendered, or administered, may be charged, or com- 
pelled to confess, or accuse, or to purge himself, or herself, of any criminal 
matter or thing,' &c. — Burn's Eccl. Law/ui. 14, 15. Ed. Phillimore. 

182 The National Church. 

found in the Canons of 1603, the fifth and the thirty- 
sixtli. The fifth, indeed, may be applicable theoreti- 
cally both to lay and to ecclesiastical persons ; practi- 
cally it can only concern those of whom subscription is 
really required. It is entitled, Impufjners of the Articles 
of Religion established in this Church of England censured. 
' Whosoever shall hereafter affirm, that any of the nine 
and thirt}^ articles, &c., are in any part superstitious 
or erroneous, or such as he may not with a good con- 
science subscribe unto, let him be excommunicated, 
&c.' We need not stay to consider what the effects of 
excommunication might be, but rather attend to the 
definition which the canon itself supplies of ' impugn- 
ing.' It is stated to be the affirming, that any of the 
Thirty-nine Articles are in any part ' superstitious or 
erroneous.' Yet an Article may be very inexpedient, 
or become so ; may be unintelligible, or not easily 
intelligible to ordinary people ; it may be controversial, 
and such as to provoke controversy and keep it alive 
when otherwise it would subside ; it may revive un- 
necessarily the remembrance of dead controversies — all 
or any of these, without being ' erroneous ;' and though 
not ' superstitious,' some expressions may appear so, 
such as those which seem to impute an occult opera- 
tion to the Sacraments. The fifth canon does not touch 
the affirming any of these things, and more especially, 
that the Articles present truths disproportionately, 
and relatively to ideas not now current. 

The other canon which concerns subscription is the 
thirty-sixth, which contains two clauses explanatory 
to some extent, of the meaning of ministerial sub- 
scription, ' That he alloioeth the Book of Articles, &c.' 
and ' that he acknowledgeih the same to be agreeable 
to the Word of God.' We ' allow ' many things which 
we do not think wise or practically useful ; as the less 
of two evils, or an evil which cannot be remedied, or 
of which the remedy is not attainable, or is uncertain 
in its operation, or is not in our power, or concerning 
which there is much difi'erence of opinion, or where 

The National ChurcJi. 183 

the initiation of any change does not belong to our- 
selves, nor the responsibility belong to ourselves, 
either of the things as they are, or of searching for 
something better. Many acquiesce in, submit to, 
' allow,' a law as it operates upon themselves which 
they would be horror-struck to have enacted ; yet 
they would gladly and in conscience, * allow ' and 
submit to it, as part of a constitution under which 
they live, against which they would never think of 
rebelling, which they would on no account undermine, 
for the many blessings of which they are fully grate- 
ful — they would be silent and patient rather than 
join, even in appearance, the disturbers and breakers 
of its laws. Secondly, he ' acknowledgeth' the same 
to be agreeable to the Word of God. Some distinc- 
tions may be founded upon the word ' acknowledge.* 
He does not maintain, nor regard it as self-evident, nor 
originate it as his own feeling, spontaneous opinion, 
or conviction ; but when it is suggested to him, put 
in a certain shape, when the intention of the framers 
is borne in mind, their probable purpose and design 
explained, together with the difhculties which sur- 
rounded them, he is not prepared to contradict, and 
he acknowledges. There is a great deal to be said, 
which had not at first occurred to him ; many other 
better and wiser men than himself have acknowledged 
the same thing — why should he be obstinate ? Besides, 
he is 3^oung, and has plenty of time to reconsider it ; 
or he is old and continues to submit out of habit, and 
it would be too absurd, at his time of life, to be setting 
up as a Church reformer. 

But after all, the important phrase is, that the 
Articles are ' agreeable to the Word of God.' This 
cannot mean that the Articles are precisely co-ex- 
tensive with the Bible, much less of equal authority 
with it as a whole. Neither separately, nor alto- 
gether, do they embody all which is said in it, and 
inferences which they draw from it are only good 
relatively and secundum quid and quatenus concordant. 

184 The National Church. 

If their terms are Biblical terms, tliey must be pre- 
sumed to have the same sense in the Articles which 
they have in the Scripture ; and if they are not all 
Scriptural ones, they undertake in the pivot Article not 
to contradict the Scripture. The Articles do not make 
any assumption of being interpretations of Scripture 
or developments of it. The greater must include the 
less, and the Scripture is the greater. 

On the other hand, there may be some things in 
the Articles which could not be contained, or have not 
been contained, in the Scripture — such as propositions 
or clauses concerning historical facts more recent than 
the Scripture itself ; for instance, that there never has 
been any doubt in the Church concerning the books 
of the New Testament. For without including' such 
doubts as a fool might have, or a very conceited per- 
son, without carrying doubts founded upon mere cri- 
ticism and internal evidence only, to such an extent 
as a Baur or even an Ewald, there was a time when 
certain books existed and certain others were not as 
yet written ; — for example, the Epistles of St. Paul 
were anterior, probably to all of the Grospels, certainly 
to that of St. John, and of course the Church could 
not receive without doubt books not as yet composed. 
But as the canon grew, book after book emerging into 
existence and general reception, there were doubts as 
to some of them, for a longer or shorter period, either 
concerning their authorship or their authority. The 
framers of the Articles were not deficient in learning, 
and could not have been ignorant of the passages in 
Eusebius where the different books current in Chris- 
tendom in his time are classified as genuine or acknow- 
ledged, doubtful and spurious. If there be an erro- 
neousness in such a statement, as that there never was 
any doubt in the Church concerning the book of the 
Bevelation, the Epistle to the Hebrews, or the second 
of St. Peter, it cannot be an erroneousness in the sense 
of the fifth canon, nor can it be at variance with 
the Word of God according to the thirty-sixth. Such 

The National Church, 185 

things in tlie Articles as are beside the Scripture are 
not in the contemplation of the canons. Much less can 
historical questions not even hinted at in the Articles 
be excluded from free discussion — such as concern the 
dates and composition of the several books, the com- 
pilation of the Pentateuch, the introduction of Daniel 
into the Jewish canon, and the like with some books 
of the New Testament — the date and authorship, for 
instance, of the fourth Gospel. 

]\Iany of those who would themselves wish the 
Christian theology to run on in its old forms of ex- 
pression, nevertheless deal with the opinions of others, 
wdiich they may think objectionable, fairly as opinions. 
There will always, on the other hand, be a few whose 
favourite mode of warfare it will be, to endeavour to 
gain a victory over some particular person who may 
hold opinions they dislike, by entangling him in the 
formularies. Nevertheless our formularies do not 
lend themselves very easily to this kind of warfare — 
Contra retiariiim haculo. 

We have spoken hitherto of the signification of 
subscription which may be gathered from the canons ; 
there is, also, a statute, a law of the land, which for- 
bids, under penalties, the advisedly and directly con- 
tradicting any of them by ecclesiastics, and requires 
subscription with declaration of ' assent ' from bene- 
ficed persons. This statute (13 Eliz. c. 12), three 
hundred years old, like many other old enactments, is 
not found to be very applicable to modern cases ; 
although it is only about fifty years ago that it w^as 
said by Sir William Scott to be in viridi observantid. 
Nevertlieless,its provisions would not easily be brought 
to bear on questions likely to be raised in our own 
days. The meshes are too open for modern refine- 
ments. For not to repeat concerning the word ' assent' 
what has been said concerning ' allow' and ' acknow- 
ledge,' let the Articles be taken according to an ob- 
vious classification. Forms of expression, partly derived 
from modern modes of thought on metaphysical sub- 

186 TJie National Church. 

jects, partly suggested by a better acquaintance than 
heretofore with the unsettled state of Christian opinion 
in the immediately post-apostolic age, may be adopted 
with respect to the doctrines enunciated in the five 
first Articles, without directly contradicting, impugn- 
ing, or refusing assent to them, but passing by the 
side of them — as with respect to the humanifjdng of 
the Divine Word and to the Divine Personalities. Then 
those which we have called the pivot Articles, concern- 
ing the rule of faith and the sufficiency of Scripture, 
are, happily, found to make no effectual provision for 
an absolute uniformity, when once the freedom of 
interpretation of Scripture is admitted ; they cannot 
be considered as interpreting their own interpreter ; 
this has sometimes been called a circular proceeding ; 
it might be resembled to a lever becoming its own 
fulcrum. The Articles, again, which have a Lutheran 
and Calvinistic sound, are found to be equally open, 
because they are, for the most part, founded on the 
very words of Scripture, and these, while worthy of 
unfeigned assent, are capable of different interpreta- 
tions. Indeed, the Calvinistic and Arminian views 
have been declared by a kind of authority to be both 
of them tenable under the seventeenth Article ; and if 
the Scriptural terms of ' election' and 'predestination ' 
may be interpreted in an anti- Calvinistic sense, ' faith,' 
in the tenth and following Articles, need not be un- 
derstood in the Lutheran, These are instances of 
legitimate affixing different significations to terms in 
the Articles, by reason of different interpretations of 
Scriptural passages. 

If, however, the Articles of religion and the law of 
the Church of England be in effect liberal, flexible, or 
little stringent, is there any necessity for expressing 
dissatisfaction with them, any sufficient provocation to 
change ? There may be much more liberty in a Church 
like our own, the law of which is always interpreted, 
according to the English spirit, in the manner most 

TJie National Church. 187 

fiivourable to those who are subject to its disciphne, 
than in one which, whether free or not from Articles, 
might be empowered to develope doctrine and to de- 
nounce new heresies. Certainly the late Mr. Irving, 
if he had been a clergyman of the Church of England, 
could scarcely have been brought under the terms of 
any ecclesiastical law of ours, for the expression of 
opinions upon an abstruse question respecting the 
humanity of Jesus Christ, which subjected him to de- 
gradation in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. 
And this transition state may be a state of as much 
liberty as the Church of England could in any way as 
yet have been enabled to attain, a state of greater 
practical liberty than has been attained in Churches 
supposed to be more free ; it is a state of safety and 
protection to those who use it wisely, under which a 
farther freedom may be prepared. 

But it is not a state which ought to be considered 
final, either by the Church itself or by the nation. 
It is very well for provisions which cease to be easily 
applicable to modern cases to be suffered to fall into 
desuetude, but after falling into desuetude they should 
be repealed. Desuetude naturally leads to repeal. 
Obsolete tests are a blot upon a modern system, and 
there is always some danger lest an antiquated rule ^"^ 
may be unexpectedly revived for the sake of an odious 
individual application ; when it has outlived its ge- 
neral regulative power, it may still be a trap for the 
weaker consciences ; or when it has become powerless 
as to penal consequences, it may serve to give a point 
to invidious imputations. 

And farther than this, the present apparent strin- 
gency of subscription as required of the clergy of the 
Church of England does not belong to it as part of its 
foundation, is not even coeval with its reconstruction 
at the period of the Reformation. Eor the Canons are 
of the date of 1603, and the Act requiring the public 
reading of the Thirty-nine Articles, with declaration 

188 The National Church. 

of assent by a beneficed person after his induction, 
is the 13th Elizabeth. An enactment prohibiting the 
bishops from requiring the subscriptions under the 
third article of the thirty- sixth canon, together with 
the repeal of 13th Elizabeth, except as to its second 
section, would relieve many scruples, and make the 
Church more national, without disturbing its ultimate 
law. The Articles would then obviously become for 
the clergy that which they are for the laity of the 
Church, ' articles of peace, not to be contradicted 
by her sons,' as the wise and liberal Burnet de- 
scribed them : and there is forcible practical rea- 
son for leaving the Thirty -nine Articles as the 
ultimate law of the Church, not to be contra- 
dicted, and for confining relaxation to the abolition 
of subscription. 

A large portion of the Articles were originally di- 
rected against the corruptions of the Church of Rome, 
and whatever may be thoaght of the unadvisableness 
of retaining tests to exclude opinions which few think 
of reviving in their old shape, these Eoman doctrines 
and practices are seen to be flourishing in full life and 
vigour. And considering the many grievous provo- 
cations which the people of England have sufi'ered 
from the Papacy both in ancient and modern times, 
they would naturally resist any change which might by 
possibility weaken the barriers between the National 
Church and the encroachments of the Church of Eome. 
It is evident, moreover, that the act of signature to 
the Thirty-nine Articles can contribute but little to the 
exclusion from the Church of Romish views. For, as 
it is, opinions and practices prevail among some of the 
clergy, which are extremely distasteful to the generality 
of the people, by reason of their llomish character. 
Those of the Articles which condemn the Romish 
errors, cannot be made so stringent in themselves as to 
bar altogether the intrusion of some opinion of a 
Roman tone, which the Reformers, if they could have 
foreseen it, might have desired to exclude, and which 

The National Church. 189 

is equally strange and repugnant to the common sense 
of the nation. No act of subscription can supply 
this defect of stringency in the formulas themselves. 
Now it would be impossible to secure the advantages 
of freedom in one direction without making it equal 
as far as it goes. We must endeavour to liberate 
ourselves from the dominion of an unwise and really 
unchristian principle with the fewest possible risks and 

Considering therefore the practical difficulties which 
would beset any change, and especially those which 
would attend, either the excepting of the anti-Eomish 
Articles from repeal or including them in it; any 
attempt at a relaxation of the clerical test should 
prudently confine itself in our generation, to an aboli- 
tion of the act of subscription, leaving the Articles 
themselves protected by the second section of the 
Statute of Elizabeth and by the canons, against direct 
contradiction or impugning. 

For, the act of subscription being abolished, there 

would disappear the invidious distinction between 

the clergy and laity of the same communion, as if 

there were separate standards for each of belief and 

morals. There would disappear also a semblance of 

a promissory oath on a subject which a promise 

is incapable of reaching. No promise can reach 

fluctuations of opinion and personal conviction. Open 

teaching can, it is true, if it be thought wise, be 

dealt with by the law and its penalties ; but the law 

should content itself with saying, you shall not 

teach or proclaim in derogation of my formularies ; 

it should not require any act which appears to 

signify, ' I think.' Let the security be either the 

penal or the moral one, not a commingling of the 

two. It happens continually, that able and sincere 

persons are deterred from entering the ministry of 

the national Church by this consideration; they 

would be willing to be subject to the law forbidding 

them to teach Arianism or Pelagianism — as what 

190 The National ClmrcJi. 

sensible man in our day would desire to teach them ? 
— but they do not like to say, or be thouglit to 
say, that they assent to a certain number of anti- 
Arian and anti-Pelagian propositions. And the absence 
of vigorous tone — not confined to one party in the 
Church, which is to be lamented of late years in its 
ministry, is to be attributed to the reluctance of the 
4. stronger minds to enter an Order in which their intel- 
lects may not have free play. The very course of 
preparation for ordination, tied down as it is in one 
department to the study of the Articles, which must 
perforce be proved consentaneous to the ' Word of God' 
according to some, and to 'Catholic antiquity' according 
to others, has an enervating effect upon the mind, 
which is compelled to embrace much scholastic matter, 
not as a history of doctrine, but as a system of truth 
of which it ought to be convinced. 

It may be easy to urge invidiously, with respect to 
the impediments now existing to undertaking office 
in the national Church, that there are other sects, 
which persons dissatisfied with her formularies may 
join, and where they may find scope for their activity 
with little intellectual bondage. Nothing can be said 
here, whether or not there might be elsewhere bondage 
at least as galling, of a similar or another kind. But 
the service of the national Church may well be re- 
garded in a different light from the service of a sect. 
It is as properly an organ of the national life as a 
magistracy, or a legislative estate. To set barriers 
before the entrance upon its functions, by limitations 
not absolutely required by public policy, is to infringe 
upon the birthright of the citizens. And to lay down 
as an alternative to striving for more liberty of thought 
and expression within the Churcii of tlie nation, that 
those who are dissatisfied may sever themselves and 
join a sect, would be paralleled by declaring to poli- 
tical reformers, tliat tliey are welcome to expatriate 
themselves, if they desire any change in the existing 

The National Church. 191 

forms of the constitution. The suggestion of the 
alternative is an insult ; if it could be enforced, it would 
be a grievous wrong. 

There is another part of the subject which may 
be slightly touched upon in this place — that of 
the endowment of the national Church. This was 
well described by Mr. Coleridge as the Nation alty. 
In a certain sense, indeed, the nation or state is lord 
paramount over all the property within its boun- 
daries. But it provides for the usufruct of the pro- 
perty in two different ways. The usufruct of private 
property, as it is called, descends, according to our 
laws, by inheritance or testamentary disposition, and 
no specific services are attached to its enjoyment. 
The usufruct of that which Coleridge called the 
Nationalty circulates freely among all the families of 
the nation. The enjoyment of it is subject to the 
performance of special services, is attainable only by 
the possession of certain qualifications. In accordance 
with the strong tendency in England to turn every 
interest into a right of so-called private property, the 
nominations to the benefices of the national Church 
have come, by an abuse, to be regarded as part of the 
estates of patrons, instead of trusts, as they really are. 
No trustee of any analogous property, of a grammar- 
school for instance, would think of selling his right of 
appointment ; he would consider the proper exercise of 
the trust his duty ; much less would any court of law 
acknowledge that a beneficial interest in the trust pro- 
perty was an asset belonging to the estate of the trustee. 
If the nomination to the place of a schoolmaster ought 
to be considered as purely fiduciary, much more should 
the nomination of a spiritual person to his parochial 
charge. Objections are made against our own national 
Church founded upon these anomalies, which may in 
time be rectified. Others are made against the very 
principle of endowment. 

It is said, that a fixed support of the minister 

192 Tlie National Church. 

tends to paralyse both him and his people — making 
him independent of liis congregation, and drying up 
their liberality. It would be difficult, perhaps, to say 
which would be the greater evil, for a minister to be 
in all things independent of his people, or in all things 
dependent upon them. But the endowed minister is 
by no means independent of all restraints, as, for 
instance, of the law of his Church and, which is much 
more, of public opinion, especially of the opinion of his 
own people. The unendowed minister is dependent 
in all things, both upon the opinion of his people and 
upon their liberality ; and frequent complaints tran- 
spire among Nonconformists of the want of some 
greater fixity in the position and sustentation of their 
ministers. In the case of a nationally endowed Church, 
the people themselves contribute little or nothing to 
its support. The Church of England is said to be the 
richest Church in Europe, which is probably not true ; 
but its people contribute less to its support than the 
members of any other Church in Christendom, whether 
established or voluntary. And if the contributing 
personally to the support of the ministry were the 
only form which Christian liberality could take, the 
stopping up the outflow of it would be an incalculable 
evil. But it is not so ; there are a multitude of other 
objects, even though the principal minister in a parish 
or other locality were sufficiently provided for, to give 
an outlet for Christian liberality. It may flow over 
from more favoured localities where Churches are 
sufficiently endowed, into more destitute districts and 
into distant lands. This is so with ourselves ; and 
those who are familiar witli the statistics of the nume- 
rous voluntary societies in England for Christian and 
philanthropic purposes, know to how great an extent 
the bulk of the support they meet with is derived 
from the contributions of churchmen. There is reason 
to think on the other hand, that the means and willing- 
ness to give on the part of nonconforming congrega- 

The National Church. 193 

tions are already mainly exhausted in making provision 
for their ministers. 

Reverting to the general interest in the Nationalty, 
it is evidently twofold. First, in the free circulation of 
a certain portion of the real property of the country, in- 
herited not by blood, nor through the accident of birth, 
but by merit and in requital for certain performances. 
It evidently belongs to the popular interest, that this 
circulation should be free from all unnecessary limi- 
tations and restraints — speculative, antiquarian, and 
the like, and be regulated, as far as attainable, by fitness 
and capacity for a particular public service. Thus 
by means of the national endowment there would 
take place a distribution of property to every family 
in the country, unencumbered by family provisions 
at each succession — a distribution in like manner of the 
best kind of education, of which the eifects would not 
be worn out in one or two generations. The Church 
theoretically is the most popular, it might be said, the 
most democratic of all our institutions ; its ministers — 
as a spiritual magistracy — true tribunes of the people. 
Secondly, the general interest in the Nationalty as the 
material means whereby the highest services are 
obtained for the general good, requires, that no arti- 
ficial discouragements should limit the number of those 
who otherwise would be enabled to become candidates 
for the service of the Church — that nothing should pre- 
vent the choice and recruitins; of the Church ministers 
from the whole of the citizens. As a matter of fact 
we find that nearly one-half of our population are at 
present more or less alienated from the communion of 
the national Church, and do not, therefore, supply 
candidates for its ministry. Instead of securing the 
excellences and highest attainments from the wliole 
of the people, it secures them, by means of the national 
reserve, only from one-half; the rest are either not 
drawn up into the Christian ministry at all, or under- 
take it in connexion with schismatical bodies, with as 


194 The National Church. 

much detriment to tlie national unity, as to the 

We all know how the inward moral life — or spiritual 
life on its moral side, if that term be preferred — is 
nourished into greater or less vigour by means of the 
conditions in which the moral subject is placed. Hence, 
if a nation is really worthy of the name, conscious of 
its own corporate life, it will develope itself on one side 
into a Church, wherein its citizens may grow up and 
be perfected in their spiritual nature. If there is 
within it a consciousness that as a nation it is fulfilling 
no unimportant office in the world, and is, under the 
order of Providence, an instrument in giving the 
victory to good over evil and to liappiness over misery, 
it will not content itself with the rough adjustments 
and rude lessons of law and police, but will throw its 
elements, or the best of them, into another mould, and 
constitute out of them a society, which is in it, though 
in some sense not of it — which is another, yet the same. 

That each one born into the nation is, together with 
his civil rights, born into a membership or privilege, 
as belonging to a spiritual society, places him at once 
in a relation which must tell powerfully upon his 
spiritual nature. For the sake of the reaction upon 
its own merely secular interests, the nation is entitled to 
provide from time to time, that the Church teaching and 
forms of one age do not traditionally harden, so as to 
become exclusive barriers in a subsequent one, and so 
the moral growth of those who are committed to the 
hands of the Church be checked, or its influences con- 
fined to a comparatively few. And the objects of the 
care of the State and of the Church will nearly co- 
incide ; for the former desires all its people to be 
brought under the improving influence, and the latter 
is willing to embrace all who have even the rudiments 
of the moral life. 

And if the objects of the care of each nearly coincide, 
when the office of the Church is properly understood, 


The National Church. 195 

so errors and mistakes in defining Churcli membersliip, 
or in constituting a repulsive mode of Church teaching, 
are fiital to the purposes both of Church and State alike. 

It is a great misrepresentation to exhibit the State 
as allying itself with one out of many sects — a mis- 
representation, the blame of which does not rest wholly 
with political persons, nor with the partisans of sects 
adverse to that which is supposed to be unduly pre- 
ferred. It cannot concern a State to develope as part 
of its own organization a machinery or system of 
relations founded on the possession of speculative 
truth. Speculative doctrines should be left to philo- '^ 
sophical schools. A national Church must be concerned | 
with the ethical development of its members. And x 
the wrong of supposing it to be otherwise, is partici- 
pated b}^ those of the clericalty who consider the Church 
of Christ to be founded, as a society, on the possession 
of an abstractedly true and supernaturally communi- 
cated speculation concerning God, rather than upon ^^ ' 
the manifestation of a divine life in man. 

It has often been made matter of reproach to 
the heathen State religion.:, that they took little 
concern in the moral life of the citizens. To a 
certain extent this is true, for the heathens of clas- 
sical history had not generally the same conceptions of 
morals as we have. But as flir as tlieir conceptions 
of morals reached, their Church and State were 
mutually bound together, not by a material alliance, 
nor by a gross compact of pay and preferment 
passing between the civil society and the priest- 
hood, but by the penetrating of the whole public 
and domestic life of the nation with a reliirious 
sentiment. All the social relations were consecrated 
by the feeling of their being entered into and carried 
on under the sanction — under the very impulse of 
Deity. Treaties and boundaries, bu^^ing and selling, 
marrying, judging, deliberating on aft'airs of State, 
spectacles and all popular amusements, were under the 


196 The National Church. 

protection of Divinity ; all life was a worship. It can 
very well be understood how philosophers should be 
esteemed atheists, when they began to speculate upon 
origins, causes, abstract being, and the like. 

Certainly the sense of the individual conscience was 
not sufficiently developed under those old religions. 
Their observances, once penetrated with a feeling of 
present Deity, became, in course of time, mere dry and 
superstitious forms. But the glory of the Grospel 
would only be partial and one-sided, if, while quicken- 
ing the individual conscience and the expectation of 
individual immortality, it had no spirit to quicken the 
national life. An isolated salvation, the rescuing of 
one's self, the reward, the grace bestowed on one's own 
labours, the undisturbed repose, the crown of glory in 
which so many have no share, the finality of the 
sentence on both hands — reflections on such expecta- 
tions as these may make stubborn martyrs and sour 
professors, but not good citizens ; rather tend to unfit 
men for this world, and in so doing prepare them very 
ill for that which is to come. 

But in order to the possibility of recruiting any 
national ministry from the whole of the nation, in 
order to the operation upon the nation at large of the 
special functions of its Church, no needless intellectual 
or speculative obstacles should be interposed. It is 
not to be expected that terms of communion could 
be made so large, as by any possibility to comprehend 
in the national Church the whole of such a free nation 
as our own. There will always be those who, from 
a conscientious scruple, or from a desire to define, or 
from peculiarities of temper, will hold aloof from the 
religion and the worship of the majority ; and it is not 
desirable that it should be otherwise, so long as the na- 
tional unity and the moral action of society are not there- 
by seriously impaired. No doubt, speaking politically, 
and regarding merely the peacefulness with which the 
machinery of ordinary executive government can be car- 
ried on, it has proved very advantageous to the State, 

The National Church. 197 

tliat an Established Church has existed in this country, 
to receive the shafts which otherwise might have been 
directed against itself. Ill-humour has evaporated 
harmlessly in Dissent, which might otherwise have 
materially deranged the body politic; and village 
Hampdens have acquired a parochial renown, sufficient 
to satisfy their ambition, in resistance to a Church- 
rate, whose restlessness might have urged them to 
dispute even to prison and spoiling of their goods, 
the lawfulness of a war-tax. But whatever root of 
conscientiousness and truth-seeking there has been 
in non-conformit}^ whatever amount of indirect 
good is produced by the emulation of the different 
religious bodies, whatever safety to social order by the 
escapement for temper so provided — the moral influence 
of the better people in their several neighbourhoods is 
neutralized or lost for want of harmony and concentra- 
tion, when the alienation from the national Church -^ 
reaches the extent which it has done in our country. 
Even in the more retired localities, industry, cleanli- 
ness, decency in the homes of the poor, school discipline 
and truthfulness, are encouraged far less than the}^ 
might otherwise be, by reason of the absence of 
religious unanimity in the superior classes. And if 
the points of speculation and of form which separate 
Dissenters from the Church of England were far more 
important than they are, and the approximative truth 
preponderatingly upon the side of Dissent, it would do 
infinitely more harm b}^ the dissension which it creates, 
than it possibly could accomplish of good, by a greater 
correctness in doctrine and ecclesiastical constitution. 
If this statement concerns Dissent itself on one side, 
it concerns the Church on the other, or rather those ^ 
who so limit the terms of its communion as to pro- 
voke, and — as human beings are constituted — to ne- 
cessitate separation from it. It is stated by Neal,^ that 
if the alterations in the Prayer-book, recommended 

^ Sist. Fur. iv. p. 6i8. 

198 The National Church. 

by the Commissioners of 1689 had been adopted, it 
would ' in all probability have brought in three parts 
in four of the Dissenters.' No such result could be 
expected from any 'amendments' or 'concessions' now. 
Much less could anything be hoped for, by means of a 
'Conference.' But it concerns the State, on the 
highest grounds of public policy, to rectify, as lar as 
possible, the mistakes committed in former times by 
itself or by the Church under its sanction ; and with- 
out aiming at an universal comprehension, which 
would be Utopian, to suffer the perpetuation of no 
unnecessary barriers excluding from the communion 
or the ministry of the national Church. 

There are, moreover, besides those who have joined 
the ranks of Dissent, many others holding aloof from 
the Church of England, by reason of its real or sup- 
posed dogmatism — whose co-operation in its true work 
would be most valuable to it — and who cannot become 
utterly estranged from it, without its losing ultimately 
its popular influence and its national character. If 
those who distinguish themselves in science and 
literature cannot, in a scientific and literary age, be 
effectually and cordially attached to the Church of 
their nation, they must sooner or later be driven into 
a position of hostility to it. They may be as indis- 
posed to the teaching of the majority of Dissenters as 
to that which they conceive to be the teaching of the 
Church ; but the Church, as an organization, will of 
necessity appear to be the most damaged by a scientific 
criticism of a supposed Christianity common to it with 
other bodies. Many personal and social bonds have 
retarded hitherto an issue which from time to time 
has threatened a controversy between our science and 
' our theology. It would be a deplorable day, v/hen the 
greatest names on either side should be found in con- 
flict ; and theology should only learn to acknowledge, 
after a defeat, that there are no irreconcileable differences 
between itself and its opponents. 

Tlie National Church. 199 

It is sometimes said with a sneer, that the scientific 
men and the men of abstractions will never change 
the religions of the world ; and yet Christianity has 
certainly been very different from what it wonld 
have been without the philosophies of a Plato and 
an Aristotle; and a Bacon and a Newton exercise 
an influence upon the Biblical theology of English- 
men. They have modified, though they have not 
made it. The more diffused science of the present 
day will farther modify it. And the question seems 
to narrow itself to this — How can those who differ 
from each other intellectually in such variety of 
degrees as our more educated and our less educated ic 
classes, be comprised under the same formularies 
of one national Church — be supposed to follow 
them, assent to them, appropriate them, in one 
spirit ? If such formularies embodied only an ethical 
result addressed to the individual and to society, the 
speculative difficulty would not arise. But as they 
present a fair and substantial representation of the 
Biblical records, incorporating their letter and pre- 
supposing their historical element, precisely the same 
problem is presented to us intellectually, as English 
Churchmen or as Biblical Christians. 

It does not seem to be contradicted, that when 
Church formularies adopt the words of Scripture, these 
must have the same meaning, and be subject to the 
same questions, in the formularies, as in the Scripture. 
And we may go somewhat farther and say, that the 
historical parts of the Bible, when referred to or pre- 
supposed in the formularies, have the same value in 
them, which they have in their original seat ; and this 
value may consist, rather in their significance, in the 
ideas which the}^ awaken, than in the scenes themselves 
which they depict. And as Churchmen, or as Christians, 
we may vary as to this value in particulars — that is, 
as to the extent of the verbal accuracy of a history, or 
of its spiritual significance, without breaking with our 



200 The National Churcli. 


communion, or denying onr sacred name. These 
varieties will be determined partly by the peculiarities 
of men's mental constitution, partly by the nature of 
their education, circumstances, and special studies. 
And neither should the idealist condemn the literalist, 
nor the literalist assume the right of excommunicating 
the idealist. They are really fed with the same truths ; 
the literalist unconsciously, the idealist with reflection. 
Neither can justly say of the other that he under- 
values the Sacred Writings, or that he holds them as 
inspired less properly than himself. 

The application of ideology to the interpretation of 
Scripture, to the doctrines of Christianity, to the 
formularies of the Church, may undoubtedly be car- 
ried to an excess — may be pushed so far as to leave in 
the sacred records no historical residue whatever. On 
the other side, there is the excess of a dull and un- 
painstaking acquiescence, satisfied with accepting in 
an unquestioning spirit, and as if they were literally 
facts, all particulars of a wonderful history, because in 
some sense it is from God. Between these extremes lie 
infinite degrees of rational and irrational interpretation. 

It will be observed that the ideal method is appli- 
cable in two ways ; both to giving account of the 
origin of parts of Scripture, and also in explanation 
of Scripture. It is thus either critical or exegetical. 
An example of the critical ideology carried to excess 
is that of Strauss, which resolves into an ideal the 
whole of the historical and doctrinal person of Jesus ; 
so again, much of the allegorizing of Pliilo and 
Origen is an exegetical ideology, exaggerated and wild. 
But it by no means follows, because Strauss has sub- 
stituted a mere shadow for the Jesus of the Evangelists, 
and has frequently descended to a minute captiousness 
in details, that there are not traits in the scriptural 
person of Jesus, which are better explained by referring 
them to an ideal than an historical origin : and without 
falling into fanciful exegetics, there are parts of 

The National Church. 201 

Scripture more usefully applied ideologically than in 
any otlier manner — as, for instance, the history of 
tlie temptation of Jesus by Satan, and accounts of 
demoniacal possessions. And liberty must be left to 
all as to the extent in which they apply the principle, 
for there is no authority, through the expressed deter- 
mination of the Church, nor of any other kind, which 
can define the limits within which it may be reasonably 

Thus some may consider the descent of all mankind 
from Adam and Eve as an undoubted historical fact ; 
others may rather perceive in that relation a form of 
narrative, into which in early ages tradition would 
easily throw itself spontaneously. Each race naturally 
— necessarily, when races are isolated — supposes itself 
to be sprung from a single pair, and to be the first, or 
the only one, of races. Among a particular people this 
historical representation became the concrete expression 
of a o-reat moral truth — of the brotherhood oi all 
human beings, of their community, as in other things, 
so also in suffering and in frailty, in physical pains 
and in moral ' corruption.' And the force, grandeur, 
and reality of these ideas are not a whit impaired in 
the abstract, nor indeed the truth of the concrete his- 
tory as their representation, even though mankind 
should have been placed upon the earth in many pairs 
at once, or in distinct centres of creation. For the 
brotherhood of men really depends, not upon the 
material fact of their Heshly descent from a single 
stock, but upon their constitution, as possessed in 
common of the same faculties and affections, fitting 
them for mutual relation and association ; so that the 
value of the history, if it were a histofy strictly so 
called, would lie in its emblematic force and application. 
And many narratives of marvels and catastrophes in 
the Old Testament are referred to in the New, as 
emblems, without either denying or asserting their 
literal truth — such as the destruction of Sodom and 

202 Tlie National Church. 

Gomorrali by fire from heaven, and the Noachian 
deluge. And especially if we bear in mind the exist- 
ence of such a school as tliat which produced Pliilo, 
or even the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we 
must think it would be wrong to lay down, that 
whenever the New Testament writers refer to Old 
Testament histories, they imply of necessity that the 

,j historic truth was the first to them. For their pur- 
W. poses it was often wholly in the background, and the 

Y" .-' history, valuable only in its spiritual application. The 
same may take place with ourselves, and history and 
tradition be employed emblematically, without, on that 
account, being regarded as untrue. We do not apply 
the term ' untrue' to parable, fable, or proverb, 
altliough their words correspond with ideas, not with 
material facts; as little should we do so, when narratives 
have been the spontaneous product of true ideas, and 
are capable of reproducing them. 

The ideologian is evidently in possession of a prin- 
ciple which will enable him to stand in charitable re- 
lation to persons of very different opinions from his 
own, and of very different opinions mutually. And if 
he has perceived to how great extent the history of 
the origin itself of Christianity rests ultimately upon 
probable evidence, his principle will relieve him from 
many difficulties which might otherwise be very dis- 
turbing. For relations which may repose on doubt- 
ful grounds as matter of history, and, as history, be in- 
capable of being ascertained or verified, may yet be 
equally suggestive of true ideas with facts absolutely 
certain. The spiritual significance is the same, of 
the transfiguration, of opening blind eyes, of causing 
the tongue of the stammerer to speak plainly, of feed- 
ing multitudes with bread in the wilderness, of cleansing 
leprosy, whatever links may be deficient in the tra- 
ditional record of particular events. Or, let us suppose 
one to be uncertain, whether our Lord were born of the 
house and lineage of David, or of the tribe of Levi, 

Tlie National CJaircIi. 203 

and even to be driven to conclude that the genealo- 
gies of Him have little historic value ; nevertheless, 
in idea, Jesus is both Son of David and Son of Aaron, "^^ \ 
both Prince of Peace and High Priest of our profes- 
sion ; as He is, under another idea, though not literally, 
' without father and without mother.' And He is 
none the less Son of David, Priest Aaronical, or Koyal 
Priest Melchizedecan, in idea and spiritually, even if 
it be unproved whether He were any of them in 
historic fact. In like manner it need not trouble us, 
if, in consistency, we should have to suppose both 
an ideal origin and to apply an ideal meaning to the 
birth in the city of David, and to other circumstances of 
the infancy. So, again, the incarnification of the di- 
vine Immanuel remains, although the angelic appear- 
ances which herald it in the narratives of the Evange- 
lists may be of ideal origin according to the concep- 
tions of former days. The ideologian may sometimes 
be thought sceptical, and be sceptical or doubtful, as 
to the historical value of related facts ; but the histori- 
cal value is not always to him the most important ; fre- 
quently it is quite secondary. And, consequently, dis- 
crepancies in narratives, scientific difficulties, defects in 
evidence, do not disturb him as they do the literalist. 
Moreover, the same principle is capable of applica- 
tion to some of those inferences which have been the 
source, according to different theologies, of much con- 
troversial acrimony and of wide ecclesiastical separa- 
tions ; such as those which have been drawn from the 
institution of the sacraments. Some, for instance, can- 
not conceive a presence of Jesus Christ in His institu- 
tion of the Lord's Supper, unless it be a corporeal one, 
nor a spiritual influence upon the moral nature of man 
to be connected with baptism, unless it be superna- 
tural, quasi-mechanical, effecting a psychical change 
then and there. But within these concrete concep- 
tions there lie hid the truer ideas of the virtual 
presence of the Lord Jesus everywhere that He is 

504 The National Church. 

preached, remembered, and represented, and of the con- 
tinual force of His spirit in His words, and especially 
in the ordinance which indicates the separation of the 
Christian from the world. 

The same may be said of the concrete conceptions 
of an hierarchy described by its material form and 
descent ; also of millenarian expectations of a personal 
reign of the saints with Jesus upon earth, and of the 
many embodiments in which from age to age has 
reappeared the vision of a New Jerusalem shining with 
mundane glory here below. These gross conceptions, 
as they seem to some, may be necessary to others, as 
approximations to true ideas. So, looking for re- 
demption in Israel was a looking for a very different 
redemption, with most of the Jewish people, from that 
which Jesus really came to operate, yet it was the 
only expectation which they could form, and was the 
shadow to them of a great reality. 

Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutored mind, 
Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind. 

Even to the Hebrew Psalmist, He comes flying upon the 
wings of the wind ; and only to the higher Prophet is He 
not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, 
but in ' the still small voice.' Not the same thoughts — 
very far from the same thoughts — pass through the 
^ ,. minds of the more and the less instructed on contem- 
plating the same face of the natural world. In like 
manner are the thoughts of men various, in form at 
least, if not in substance, when they read the same 
Scripture histories and use the same Scripture phrases. 
Histories to some, become parables to others ; and facts 
, . to those, are emblems to these. The ' rock' and the 

V 0-''' ' cloud' and tlie ' sea' convey to the Christian admoni- 

's tions of spiritual verities ; and so do the ordinances of 

the Church and various parts of its forms of worship. 

Jesus Christ has not revealed His religion as a 
theology of the intellect, nor as an historical faith ; 
and it is a stifling of the true Christian life, both in the 



Tke National Church. 205 

individual and in tlie Cliurcli, to require of many men 
a unanimity in speculative doctrine, which is unattain- 
able, and a uniformity of historical belief, which can 
never exist. The true Christian life is the conscious- 
ness of bearing a part in a great moral order, of which ^ "^'" 
the highest agency upon earth has been committed to 
the Church. Let us not oppress this work nor com- 
plicate the difficulties with which it is surrounded; 
' not making the heart of the righteous sad, whom the 
Lord hath not made sad, nor strengthening the hands 
of the wicked by promising him life.' 

There is enough indeed to sadden us in the doubtful 
warfare which the good wages with the evil, both within 
us and without us. How few, under the most favour- 
able conditions, learn to bring themselves face to face 
with tlie great moral law, which is the manifestation 
of the Will of God ! The greater part can only detect 
the evil when it comes forth from them, nearly as when 
any other might observe it. We cannot, in the matter 
of those who are brought under the highest influences 
of the Christian Church, any more than in the case of 
mankind viewed in their ordinary relations, give any ac- 
count of the apparently useless expenditure of power — 
of the apparent overbearing generally of the higher law 
by the lower — of the apparent poverty of result from the 
operation of a wonderful machinery — of the seeming 
waste of myriads of germs, for the sake of a few 
mature growths. ' Many are called but few chosen ' — 
and under the privileges of the Christian Church, as in 
other mysteries, — 

TToXXot \ikv vap6r]Kocj)6poi, |3dK;^oi 8e ye navpoi. 

Calvinism has a keen perception of this truth ; and 
we shrink from Calvinism and Augustinianism, not 
because of their perceiving how few, even under Chris- 
tian privileges, attain to the highest adoption of sons ; 
but because of the inferences with which they clog 
that truth — the inferences which they draw respecting 

206 The National Church. 

the rest, whom they comprehend in one mass of per- 

The Christian Church can only tend on those 
who are committed to its care, to the verge of that 
abyss which parts this world from the world un- 
seen. Some few of those fostered b}^ her are now ripe 
for entering on a higher career : the many are but 
rudimentary spirits — germinal souls. What shall 
become of them ? If we look abroad in the world and 
regard the neutral character of the multitude, we are 
at a loss to apply to them, either the promises, 
or the denunciations of revelation. So, tlie wise 
heathens could anticipate a reunion with the great 
and good of all ages ; they could represent to them- 
selves, at least in a figurative manner, the punishment 
and the purgatory of the wicked ; but they would not 
expect the reappearance in another world, for any 
purpose, of a Thersites or an Hyperbolos — social and 
poetical justice had been sufficiently done upon them. 
Yet there are such as these, and no better than these, 
under the Christian name — babblers, busy-bodies, 
livers to get gain, and mere eaters and drinkers. The 
Roman Church has imagined a limhm in/mitimn ; 
we must rather entertain a hope that there shall 
be found, after the great adjudication, receptacles 
suitable for those who shall be infants, not as to years 
of terrestrial life, but as to spiritual development — nur- 
series as it were and seed-grounds, where the unde- 
veloped may grow up under new conditions — the 
stunted may become strong, and the perverted be 
restored. And when the Christian Church, in all its 
branches, shall have fulfilled its sublunary office, and 
its Founder shall have surrendered His kingdom to 
the Great Father — all, both small and great, shall find 
a refuge in the bosom of the Universal Parent, to 
repose, or be quickened into higher life, in the ages to 
come, according to His Will. 


ON the revival of science in the i6th century, some 
of the earliest conclusions at which philosophers %X 
arrived were found to be at variance with popular and ^ '*^}^»i 
long- established belief. The Ptolemaic system of ^^^ 
astronomy, which had then full possession of the 
minds of men, contemplated the whole visible universe 
from the earth as the immovable centre of things. 
Copernicus changed the point of view, and placing the 
beholder in the sun, at once reduced the earth to an 
inconspicuous globule, a merely subordinate member of 
a family of planets, which the terrestrials had until 
then fondly imagined to be but pendants and orna- 
ments of their own habitation. The Church naturally 
took a lively interest in the disputes which arose 
between the philosophers of the new school and those 
who adhered to the old doctrines, inasmuch as the 
Hebrew records, the basis of religious faith, manifestly 
countenanced the opinion of the earth's immobility 
and certain other views of the universe very incom- 
patible with those propounded by Copernicus. Hence 
arose the official proceedings against Galileo, in con- 
sequence of which he submitted to sign his celebrated 
recantation, acknowledging that ' the proposition that 
the sun is the centre of the world and immovable 
from its place is absurd, philosophically false, and 
formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to 

\C * ^' 208 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

the Scripture ;' and that ' the proposition tliat the 
earth is not the centre of the world, nor immovable, 
but that it moves and also with a diurnal motion, is 
absurd, philosophically false, and at least erroneous in 

The Romish Church, it is presumed, adheres to the 
old views to the present day. Protestant instincts, 
however, in the 17th century were strongly in 
sympathy with the augmentation of science, and 
consequently Reformed Churches more easily allowed 
themselves to be helped over the difficulty, which, 
according to the views of inspiration then held and 
which have survived to the present day, was in reality 
quite as formidable for them as for those of the old 
faith. The solution of the difficulty offered by Galileo 
and others was, that the object of a revelation or 
divine unveiling of mysteries, must be to teach man 
things whicli he is unable and must ever remain 
unable to find out for himself: but not physical truths, 
for the discovery of which he has faculties specially 
provided by his Creator. Hence it was not unreason- 
able, that in regard to matters of fact merely, the 
Sacred Writings should use the common language 
^ and assume the common belief of mankind, without 
""i purporting to correct errors upon points morally 
indifferent. So, in regard to such a text as ' The 
world is established, it cannot be moved,' though it 
might imply the sacred penman's ignorance of the 
fact that the earth does move, yet it does not put 
forth this opinion as an indispensable point of faith. 
And this remark is applicable to a number of texts 
whicli present a similar difficulty. 

It might be thought to have been less easy to 
reconcile in men's minds the Copernican view of the 
universe with the very jjlain and direct averments 
contained in the opening chapter of Grenesis. It can 
scarcely be said that this chapter is not intended in 
part to teach and convey at least some physical truth, 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 209 

and taking its words in their plain sense it manifestly 
gives a view of the universe adverse to that of modern 
science. It represents the sky as a watery vault in which 
the sun, moon, and stars are set. But the discordance 
of this description with facts does not appear to have 
been so palpable to the minds of the seventeenth cen- 
tury as it is to us. The mobility of the earth was a 
proposition startling not only to faith but to the 
senses. The difficulty involved in this belief having 
been successfully got over, other discrepancies 
dwindled in importance. The brilliant progress of 
astronomical science subdued the minds of men ; the 
controversy between faith and knowledge gradually 
fell to slumber ; the story of Galileo and the Inquisi- 
tion became a school commonplace, the doctrine of 
the earth's mobility found its way into children's 
catechisms, and the limited views of the nature of the 
universe indicated in the Old Testament ceased to be 
felt as religious difficulties. 

It would have been well if theologians had made 
up their minds to accept frankly the principle that 
those things for the discovery of which man has 
faculties specially provided are not fit objects of a 
divine revelation. Had this been unhesitatingly done, 
either the definition and idea of divine revelation 
must have been modified, and the possibility of an 
admixture of error have been allowed, or such parts 
of the Hebrew writings as were found to be repugnant 
to fact must have been pronounced to form no part of 
revelation. The first course is that which theologians 
have most generally adopted, but with such limitations, 
cautels, and equivocations as to be of little use in 
satisfying those who would know how and what God 
really has taught mankind, and whether anything 
beyond that which man is able and obviously intended 
to arrive at by the use of his natural faculties. 

The difficulties and disputes which attended the 
first revival of science have recurred in the present 


210 Mosaic Cosmogony, 

V- century in consequence of the growth of geology. It 
is in truth only the old question over again — precisely 
the same, point of theology which is involved, — 
although the difficulties which present themselves are 
fresh. The school-books of the present day, while 
they teach the child that the earth moves, yet assure 
him that it is a little less than six thousand years old, 
and that it was made in six days. On the other hand, 
geologists of all religious creeds are agreed that the 
earth has existed for an immense series of years, — to 
be counted by millions rather than by thousands ; and 
that indubitably more than six days elapsed from its 
first creation to the appearance of man upon its sur- 
face. By this broad discrepancy between old and 
new doctrine is the modern mind startled, as were the 
men of the sixteenth century when told that the earth 

When this new cause of controversy first arose, 
some writers more hasty than discreet, attacked the 
conclusions of geologists, and declared them scientifi- 
cally false. This phase may now be considered past, 
and although school-books probabty continue to teach 
much as they did, no well-instructed person now 
doubts the great antiquity of the earth any more than 
its motion. This being so, modern theologians, for- 
saking the maxim of Galileo, or only using it vaguely 
as an occasional make-weight, have directed their at- 
tention to the possibility of reconciling the Mosaic 
narrative with those geological facts which are ad- 
mitted to be beyond dispute. Several modes of doing 
this have been proposed which have been deemed 
more or less satisfactoiy. In a text-book of theolo- 
gical instruction widely used,^ we find it stated in broad 
terms, * Geological investigations, it is now known, all 
prove the perfect harmony between scripture and 
geology, in reference to the history of creation.' 

1 Home's Introduction to the Holy Scriptures (1856, tenth Edition). 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 211 

111 truth, however, if we refer to the plans of con- 
ciliation proposed, we find them at variance with eacli 
other and mutually destructive. The conciliators are 
not agreed among themselves, and each holds the 
views of the other to he untenable and unsafe. The 
ground is perpetually being shifted, as the advance of 
geological science may require. The plain meaning 
of the Hebrew record is unscrupulously tampered 
with, and in general the pith of the whole process lies 
in divesting the text of all meaning whatever. We 
are told that Scripture not being designed to teach us 
natural philosophy, it is in vain to attempt to make 
out a cosmogony from its statements. If the first 
chapter of Genesis convey to us no information con- 
cerning the origin of the world, its statements cannot 
indeed be contradicted by modern discovery. But it 
is absurd to call this harmony. Statements such as 
that above quoted are, we conceive, little calculated to 
be serviceable to the interests of theology, still less to 
religion and morality. Believing, as we do, that if 
tlie value of the Bible as a book of religious instruc- 
tion is to be maintained, it must be not by striving to 
prove it scientifically exact, at the expense of every 
sound principle of interpretation, and in defiance of 
common sense, but by the frank recognition of the 
erroneous views of nature which it contains, we have 
put pen to paper to analyse some of the popular con- 
ciliation theories. The inquiry cannot be deemed a 
superfluous one, nor one which in the interests of 
theology had better be let alone. Physical science 
goes on unconcernedly pursuing its own paths. Theo- 
logy, the science whose object is the dealing of God 
with man as a moral being, maintains but a shivering 
existence, shouldered and jostled by the sturdy growths 
of modern thought, and bemoaning itself for the hos- 
tility which it encounters. Why should this be, un- 
less because theologians persist in clinging to theories 
of God's procedure towards man, which have long 

p 3 

212 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

been seen to be untenable ? If, relinquishing theories, 
they would be content to inquire from the history of 
man what this procedure has actually been, the so- 
called difficulties of theology would, for the most part, 
vanish of themselves. 

The account which astronomy gives of the relations 
of our earth to the rest of the universe, and that 
which geology gives of its internal structure and the 
development of its surface, are sufficiently familiar 
to most readers. But it will be necessary for our 
purpose to go over the oft-trodden ground, which must 
be done with rapid steps. Nor let the reader object 
to be reminded of some of the most elementary facts 
of his knowledge. The human race has been ages in 
arriving at conclusions now familiar to every child. 

This earth apparently so still and stedl'ast, lying 
in majestic repose beneath the aithereal vault, is a 
globular body of comparatively insignificant size, 
whirling fast through space round the sun as the 
centre of its orbit, and completing its revolution in 
the course of one year, while at the same time it 
revolves daily once about its own axis, thus producing 
the changes of day and night. The sun, which seems to 
leap up each morning from the east, and traversing the 
skyey bridge, slides down into the west, is relatively 
to our earth motionless. In size and weight it incon- 
ceivably surpasses it. The moon, which occupies a 
position in the visible heavens only second to the sun, 
and far beyond that of every other celestial body in 
conspicuousness, is but a subordinate globe, much 
smaller than our own, and revolving round the earth 
as its centre, while it accompanies it in yearly revo- 
lutions about the sun. Of itself it has no lustre, and 
is visible to us only by the reflected sunlight. Those 
beautiful stars which are perpetually changing their 
position in the heavens, and shine with a soft and 
moon-like light, are bodies, some much larger, some 
less, than our earth, and like it revolve round the sun, 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 213 

b}^ the reflection of whose rajs we see them. The 
telescope has revealed to us the fact that several of 
these are attended by moons of their own, and that 
besides those which the unassisted eye can see, there 
are others belonging to the same family coursing 
round the sun. As for the glittering dust which 
■emblazons the nocturnal sky, there is reason to believe 
that each spark is a self-luminous body, perhaps of 
similar material to our sun, and that the very nearest 
of the whole tribe is at an incalculable distance from 
us, the very least of them of enormous size compared 
with our own humble globe. Thus has modern science 
reversed nearly all the prima facie views to which our 
sensesleadus respecting the constitution of the universe; 
but so thoroughly are the above statements wrought 
into the culture of the present day, that we are apt to 
forget that mankind once saw these things very 
differently, and that but a few centuries have elapsed 
since such views were startling novelties. 

Our earth then is but one of the lesser pendants of 
a body which is itself only an inconsiderable unit in 
the vast creation. And now if we withdraw our 
thoughts from the immensities of space, and look into 
the construction of man's obscure home, the first 
question is, whether it has ever been in any other con- 
dition than that in which we now see it, and if so, 
what are the stages through which it has passed, and 
what was its first traceable state. Here geology 
steps in and successfully carries back the history of the 
earth's crust to a very remote period, until it arrives at 
a region of uncertainty, where philosophy is reduced to 
mere guesses and possibilities, and pronounces nothing 
definite. To this region belong the speculations which 
have been ventured upon as to the original concretion of 
the earth and planets out of nebular matter of which 
the sun may have been the nucleus. But the first 
clear view which we obtain of the early condition of the 
earth, presents to us a ball of matter, fluid with intense 

"14 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

heat, spinning on its own axis and revolving round 
the sun. How long it may have continued in this 
state is beyond calculation or surmise. It can only 
be believed that a prolonged period, beginning and 
ending we know not when, elapsed before'the surface 
became cooled and hardened and capable of sustaining 
organized existences. The water which now enwraps 
a large portion of the face of the globe, must for ages 
have existed only in the shape of steam, floating above 
and enveloping the planet in one thick curtain of 
mist. When the cooling of the surface allowed it to 
condense and descend, then commenced the process by 
which the lowest stratified rocks were formed, and 
gradually spread out in vast layers. Eains and rivers 
now acted upon the scoriaceous integument, grinding 
it to sand and carrying it down to the depths and 
cavities. Whether organized beings co-existed with 
this state of things we know not, as the early rocks 
have been acted upon by interior heat to an extent 
which must have destroyed all traces of animal and 
vegetable life, if any such ever existed. This period 
has been named by geologists the Azoic, or that in 
which life was not. Its duration no one presumes to 

It is in the system of beds which overlies these 
primitive formations that the first records of organisms 
present themselves. In the so-called Silurian system 
we have a vast assemblage of strata of various kinds, 
together many thousands of feet thick, and abound- 
ing in remains of animal life. These strata were 
deposited at the bottom of the sea, and the remains 
are exclusively marine. The creatures whose exuvise 
have been preserved belong to those classes which are 
placed by naturalists the lowest with respect to 
organization, the mollusca, articulata, and radiata. 
Analogous beings exist at the present day, but not 
their lineal descendants, unless time can eftect trans- 
mutation of species, an hypothesis not generally 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 215 

accepted by naturalists. In the same strata with 
these inhabitants of the early seas are found remains 
of fucoid or seaweed-like plants, the lowest of the 
vegetable tribe, which may have been the first of this 
kind of existences introduced into the world. But, as 
little has yet been discovered to throw light upon the 
state of the dry land and its productions at this remote 
period, nothing can be asserted positively on the 

In the upper strata of the Silurian system is found 
the commencement of the race of fishes, the lowest 
creatures of the vertebrate type, and in the succeeding 
beds they become abundant. These monsters clothed in 
mail who must have been the terror of the seas they 
inhabited, have left their indestructible coats behind 
them as evidence of their existence. 

Next come the carboniferous strata, containing the 
remains of a gigantic and luxuriant vegetation, and 
here reptiles and insects begin to make their appearance. 
At this point geologists make a kind of artificial break, 
and for the sake of distinction, denominate the whole 
of the foregoing period of animated existences the 
Palseozoic, or that of antique life. 

In the next great geological section, the so-called 
Secondary period, in which are comprised the oolitic 
and cretaceous systems, the predominant creatures 
are different from those which figured conspicuously 
in the preceding. The land was inhabited by gigantic 
animals, half-toad, half-lizard, who hopped about, 
leaving often their foot-prints like those of a clumsy 
human hand, upon the sandy shores of the seas 
they frequented. The waters now abounded with 
monsters, half-fish, half-crocodile, the well-known 
saurians, whose bones have been collected in abun- 
dance. Even the air had its tenantry from the same 

' It has been stated that a coal-bed, containing remains of land-plants, 
underlying strata of the lower Silurian class, has been found in Portugal, 

216 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

family type, for the pterodactyls were creatures, half- 
lizard, half-vampyre, provided witli membranous appen- 
dages which must have enabled them to fly. In an 
early stage of this period traces of birds appear, and 
somewhat later those of mammals, but of the lowest 
class belonging to that division, namely, the marsupial 
or pouch-bearing animals, in which naturalists see 
affinities to the oviparous tribes. The vegetation of 
this period seems to have consisted principally of the 
lower classes of plants, according to the scale of 
organization accepted by botanists, but it was luxuriant 
and gigantic. 

Lastly, comes the Tertiary period, in which mam- 
malia of the highest forms enter upon the scene, 
while the composite growths of the Secondary period 
in great part disappear, and the t^q^es of creatures 
approach more nearly to those which now exist. 
During long ages this state of things continued, 
w^hile the earth was the abode principally of 
mastodons, elephants, rhinoceroses, and their thick- 
hided congeners, many of them of colossal propor- 
tions, and of species which have now passed away. 
The remains of these creatures have been found in the 
frozen rivers of the north, and they appear to have 
roamed over regions of the globe where their more 
delicate representatives of the present day would be 
unable to live. During this era the ox, horse, and 
deer, and perhaps other animals, destined to be ser- 
viceable to man, became inhabitants of the earth. 
Lastly, the advent of man may be considered as in- 
augurating a new and distinct epoch, that in which 
we now are, and during the whole of which the 
physical conditions of existence cannot have been 
very materially different from what they are now. 
Thus, the reduction of the earth into the state in 
which we now behold it has been the slowly con- 
tinued work of ages. The races of organic beings 
which have populated its surface have from time to 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 217 

time passed away, and been supplanted by others, 
introduced we know not certainly by what means, 
but evidently according to a fixed method and order, 
and with a gradually increasing complexity and 
fineness of organization, until we come to man as 
the crowning point of all. Geologically speaking, the 
history of his first appearance is obscure, nor does 
archaeology do much to clear this obscurity. Science 
has, however, made some efforts towards tracing man 
to his cradle, and by patient observation and collec- 
tion of facts much more may perhaps be done in this 
direction. As for history and tradition, they afford 
little upon which anything can be built. The human- 
race, like each individual man, has forgotten its own 
birth, and the void of its early years has been filled 
up by imagination, and not from genuine recollection. 
Thus much is clear, that man's existence on earth 
is brief, compared with the ages during which un- 
reasoning creatures were the sole possessors of the 

We pass to the account of the creation contained 
in the Hebrew record. And it must be observed 
that in reality two distinct accounts are given us in 
the book of Genesis, one being comprised in the first 
chapter and the first three verses of the second, the 
other commencing at the fourth verse of the second 
chapter and continuing till the end. This is so philo- 
logically certain that it were useless to ignore it. But 
even those who may be inclined to contest the fact 
that we have here the productions of two different 
writers, will admit that the account begfinnineat the first 
verse of the first chapter, and ending at the third verse 
of the second, is a complete whole in itself. And to 
this narrative, in order not to complicate the subject 
unnecessarily, we intend to confine ourselves. It will 
be sufficient for our purpose to inquire, whether this 
account can be shown to be in accordance with our 
astronomical and geological knowledge. And for the 

218 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

right understanding of it the whole must be set out, 
so that the various parts may be taken in connexion 
with one another. 

AVe are told that ' in the beginning God created the 
heaven and the earth.' It has been matter of 
discussion araong'st theoloo-ians whether the word 
' created' (Heb. barci) here means simply shaped or 
formed, or shaped or formed out of nothing. From 
the use of the verb hara in other passages, it appears 
that it does not necessarily mean to make out of 
nothing,^ but it certainly might impliedly mean this 
in a case so peculiar as the present. The phrase ' the 
heaven and the earth,' is evidently used to signify 
the universe of things, inasmuch as the heaven in its 
proper signification has no existence until the second 
day. It is asserted then that God shaped the whole 
material universe, whether out of nothing, or out of 
pre-existing matter. But which sense the writer 
really intended is not material for our present pur- 
pose to inquire, since neither astronomical nor geo- 
logical science affects to state anything concerning 
the first origin of matter. 

In the second verse the earliest state of things is 
described ; according to the received translation, ' the 
earth was without form and void.' The prophet Jere- 
miah ^ uses the same expression to describe the desola- 
tion of the earth's surface occasioned by God's wrath, 
and perhaps the words ' empty and waste' would convey 
to us at present something more nearly approaching the 

^ This appears at once from verse 21, where it is said that God created 
(bara) the >;reat whales; and from verses 26 and 27, in the first of which 
we read, ' God said, Let us make (hasaJi) man in our image,' and in the 
latter, ' So God created {hara) man in his image.' In neither of these 
cases can it be supposed to be implied that the whales, or man, were made 
out of nothing. In the second narrative, another word is used for the 
creation of man, iatzer — to mould; and his formation out of the dust is 
circumstantially described. 

- Chap. iv. 23. 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 219 

meaning of tohu, va-hohu, than those which our trans- 
lators have used. 

The earth itself is supposed to be submerged under 
the waters of the deep, over which the breath of God 
— the air or wind — flutters while all is involved in 
darkness. The first special creative command is that 
which bids the light appear, whereupon daylight 
breaks over the two primeval elements of earth and 
water — the one lying still enveloped by the other ; 
and the space of time occupied by the original dark- 
ness and the light which succeeded, is described as the 
first day. Thus light and the measurement of time 
are represented as existing before the manifestation of 
the sun, and this idea, although repugnant to our 
modern knowledge, has not in former times appeared 
absurd. Thus we find Ambrose {Hexaemeron, lib. 4, 
cap. 3) remarking : — ' We must recollect that the 
light of day is one thing, the light of the sun, moon, 
and stars another, — the sun by his rays appearing to 
add lustre to the daylight. For before sunrise the 
day dawns, but is not in full refulgence, for the mid- 
day sun adds still further to its splendour.' We 
quote this passage to show how a mind unsophisticated 
by astronomical knowledge understood the Mosaic 
statement ; and we may boldly affirm that those for 
whom it was first penned could have taken it in no 
other sense than that light existed before and inde- 
pendently of the sun, nor do we misrepresent it when 
we affirm this to be its natural and primary meaning. 
How far we are entitled to give to the writer's words 
an enigmatical and secondary meaning, as contended 
by those who attempt to conciliate them with our 
present knowledge, must be considered further on. 

The work of the second day of creation is to erect 
the vault of Heaven (Heb. rakia ; Gr. arepeoj/na ; Lat. 
-firmamentuiii) which is represented as supporting an 
ocean of water above it. The waters are said to be 
divided, so that some are below, some above the vault. 

220 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

That the Hebrews understood the sky, firmament, or 
heaven to be a permanent solid vault, as it appears to 
the ordinary observer, is evident enough from various 
expressions made use of concerning it. It is said to 
have pillars (Job xxvi. ii), foundations (2 Sam. xxii. 8), 
doors (Ps. Ixxviii. 33), and windows (Gen. vii. 11). No 
quibbling about the derivation of the word rakia, 
which is literally something beaten out,^ can affect 
the explicit description of the Mosaic writer, con- 
tained in the words ' the waters that are above the 
firmament,' or avail to show that he was aware that 
the sky is but transparent space. 

On the third day, at the command of God, the waters 
which have hitherto concealed the earth are gathered 
together in one place — the sea, — and the dry land 
emerges. Upon the same day the earth brings forth 
grass, herb yielding seed and fruit trees, the destined 
food of the animals and of man (v. 29). Nothing is 
said of herbs and trees which are not serviceable to 
this purpose, and perhaps it may be contended, since 
there is no vegetable production which may not pos- 
sibly be useful to man, or which is not preyed upon 
by some animal, that in this description the whole 
terrestrial flora is implied. We wish, however, to 
call the attention of the reader to the fact, that trees 
and plants destined for food are those which are par- 
ticularly singled out here as the earliest productions 
of the earth, as we shall have occasion to refer to this 
again presently. 

On the fourth day, the two great lights, the sun and 
moon, are made (Heb. hasah) and ^^^'in the firmament of 
heaven to give light to the earth, but more particularly 
to serve as the means of measuring time, and of 
marking out years, days, and seasons. This is the 
most prominent office assigned to them (v. 14-18). 

' The root is generally applied to express the hammering or beating 
out of metal plates ; hence something beaten or spread out. It has been 
pretended that the word rakia may be translated ex^jaiLse, so as merely to 
mean empty space. The context sufficiently rebuts this. 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 221 

The formation of tlie stars is mentioned in tlie most 
cursory manner. It is not said out of what materials 
all tliese bodies were made, and whether the writer 
regarded them as already existing, and only waiting to 
have a proper place assigned them, may be open to 
question. At any rate, their allotted receptacle — the 
firmament — was not made until the second day, nor 
were they set in it until the fourth ; vegetation, be it 
observed, having already commenced on the third, and 
therefore independently of the warming influence of 
the sun. 

On the fiftli day the waters are called into pro- 
ductive activity, and bring forth fishes and marine 
animals, as also the birds of the air.^ It is also said 
that Grod created or formed {bara) great whales and 
other creatures of the water and air. On the sixth, 
day the eartli brings forth living creatures, cattle, and 
reptiles, and also ' the beast of the field,' that is, the 
wild beasts. And here also it is added that Grod made 
{hasaJi) tliese creatures after their several kinds. The 
formation of man is distinguished by a variation of 
tlie creative fiat. ' Let us make man in our image after 
our likeness.' Accordingly, man is made and formed 
[barci) in the image and likeness of God, a phrase which 
has been explained away to mean merely ' perfect, 
sinless,' although the Pentateuch abounds in passages 
showing that the Hebrews contemplated the Divine 
being in the visible form of a man,^ Modern spiri- 
tualism has so entirely banished this idea, that probably 
many may not without an effort be able to accept the 
plain language of the Hebrew writer in its obvious 
sense in the 26th verse of the ist chapter of Genesis, 
though tlie}^ will have no difficulty in doing so in the 
3rd verse of the 5tli chapter, where the same words 
' image' and ' likeness' are used. Man is said to have 
been created male and female, and the narrative contains 

^ III the second narrative of creation, in which no distinction of days is 
made, the birds are said to have been formed out of the ground. Gen. ii. 19. 
^ See particularly the narrative iu Genesis xviii. 

222 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

nothing to show that a single pair only is intended.^ 
He is commanded to increase and multiply, and to 
assume dominion over all the other tribes of beings. 
The whole of the works of creation being complete, 
God gives to man, beast, fowl, and creeping thing, 
the vegetable productions of the earth as their ap- 
pointed food. And when we compare the verses 
Gren. i. 29, 30, with Gen. ix. 3, in which, after the 
Flood, animals are given to man for food in addition to 
the green herb, it is difficult not to come to the con- 
clusion that in the earliest view taken of creation, men 
and animals were supposed to have been, in their ori- 
ginal condition, not carnivorous. It is needless to say 
that this has been for the most part the construction 
put upon the words of the Mosaic writer, until a clear 
perception of the creative design which destined the 
tiger and lion for flesh-eaters, and latterly the geo- 
logical proof of flesh' eating monsters having existed 
among the pre-adamite inhabitants of the globe, ren- 
dered it necessary to ignore this meaning. 

The ist, 2nd, and 3rd verses of the second chapter 
of Genesis, which have been most absurdly divided 
from their context, conclude the narrative.^ On the 
seventh day God rests from His work, and blesses 
\J^, the day of rest, a fact which is referred to in the 
"^ X^ Commandment given from Sinai as the ground of the 
h^ s,_/\ observance of Sabbatic rest imposed upon the Hebrews. 
'*^ ti /-^ Remarkable as this narrative is for simple grandeur, 
^ly^ it has nothing in it which can be properly called 
• ^ * '^-f- P^^^ic^^- ^^ bears on its face no trace of mystical or 
\^^ . symbolical meaning. Things are called by their right 
y»i. -^1 names with a certain scientific exactness widely ditie- 

r^>c^-' . . : 

(r-j^ ■■ „ -J^^ ' It is in the second narrative of creation that the formation of a single 
-y {h^,, 1 man, out of the dust of the earth, is described, and the omission to create 
Ug ^yv/"" a female at the same time, is stated to have been repaired by the sub- 
^ vA sequent formation of one from the side of the man. 

^ The common arrangement of the Bible in chapters is of comparatively 
modern origin, and is admitted, on all hands, to have no authority or phi- 
lological worth whatever. In many cases, the division is most preposterous, 
and interferes greatly with an intelligent perusal of the text. 


Mosaic Cosmogony. 223 

rent from the imaginative cosmogonies of the Greeks, 
in which the powers and phenomena of nature are 
invested with personality, and the passions and 
qualities of men are represented as individual exis- 

The circumstances related in the second narrative 
of creation are indeed such as to give at least some 
ground for the supposition tliat a mystical interpreta- 
tion was intended to be given to it. But this is far 
from being the case with the first narrative, in which 
none but a professed mystifier of the school of Philo 
could see anything but a plain statement of facts. 
There can be little reasonable dispute then as to the 
sense in which the Mosaic narrative was taken by 
those who first heard it, nor is it indeed disputed that 
for centuries, putting apart the Philonic mysticism, 
which after all did not exclude a primary sense, its 
words have been received in their genuine and natural 
meaning. That this meaning \^ prima facie one wholly 
adverse to the present astronomical and geological 
views of the universe is evident enough. There is not 
a mere difference through deficiency. It cannot be 
correctly said that the Mosaic writer simply leaves 
out details which modern science supplies, and that, 
therefore, the inconsistency is not a real but only an 
apparent one. It is manifest that the whole account 
is given from a different point of view from that which 
we now unavoidably take ; that the order of things as 
we now know them to be, is to a great extent reversed, 
although here and there we may pick out some general 
analogies and points of resemblance. Can we say 
that the Ptolemaic system of astronomy is not at 
variance with modern science, because it represents 
with a certain degree of correctness some of the 
apparent motions of the heavenly bodies ? 

The task which sundry modern writers have im- 
posed upon themselves is to prove that the Mosaic 
narrative, however apparently at variance with our 
knowledge, is essentially, and in fact true, although 

224 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

never understood properly until modern science sup- 
plied the necessary commentary and explanation. 

Two modes of conciliation have been propounded 
which have enjoyed considerable popularity, and to 
these two we shall confine our attention. 

The first is that originally brought into vogue by 
Chalmers and adopted by the late Dr. Buckland in 
his Bridgewater Treatise, and which is probably still 
received by many as a sufficient solution of all diffi- 
culties. Dr. Buckland's treatment of the case may 
be taken as a fair specimen of the line of argument 
adopted, and it shall be given in his own words. 
* The word beginning' he says, * as applied by Moses in 
the first verse of the book of Grenesis, expresses an 
undefined period of time which was antecedent to the 
last great change that affected the surface of the earth, 
and to the creation of its present animal and vegetable 
inhabitants, during which period a long series of 
operations may have been going on ; which as they 
are wholly unconnected with the history of the human 
race, are passed over in silence by the sacred historian, 
whose only concern was barely to state, that the 
matter of the universe is not eternal and self-existent, 
but was originally created by the power of the Al- 
mighty.' ' The Mosaic narrative commences with a 
declaration that ' in the beginning God created the 
heaven and the earth.' These few first words of 
Genesis may be fairly appealed to by the geologist as 
containing a brief statement of the creation of the 
material elements, at a time distinctly preceding the 
operations of the first day ; it is nowhere affirmed that 
God created the heaven and the earth in \X\q first day, 
but in the beginning ; this beginning may have been 
an epoch at an unmeasured distance, followed by 
periods of undefined duration during which all the 
physical operations disclosed by geology were going 

* The first verse of Genesis, therefore, seems expli- 
citly to assert the creation of the universe ; the 

3fosaic Cosmo(jony. 225 

heaven, including the sidereal systems ; and the earth, 
more especially specifying our own planet, as the sub- 
sequent scene of the operations of the six days about 
to be described ; no information is given as to events 
which may have occurred upon this earth, unconnected 
with the history of man, between the creation of its 
component matter recorded in the first verse, and the 
era at which its history is resumed in the second 
verse ; nor is any limit fixed to the time during 
which these intermediate events may have been going 
on : millions of millions of years may have occupied the 
indefinite interval, between the beginning in which God 
created the heaven and the earth, and the evening or 
commencement of the first day of the Mosaic narrative.' 
' The second verse may describe the condition of 
the earth on the evening of this first day (for in the 
Jewish mode of computation used by Moses each day 
is reckoned from the beginning of one evening to the 
beginning of another evening). This first evening 
may be considered as the termination of the indefinite 
time w^hich followed the primeval creation announced 
in the first verse, and as the commencement of the 
first of the six succeeding days in which the earth was 
to be filled up, and peopled in a manner fit for the 
reception of mankind. We have in this second verse, 
a distinct mention of earth and waters, as already 
existing and involved in darkness ; their condition 
also is described as a state of confusion and emptiness 
{tohu bohii), words which are usually interpreted by 
the vague and indefinite Greek term chaos, and which 
may be geologically considered as designating the 
wreck and ruins of a former world. At this inter- 
mediate point of time the preceding undefined geolo- 
gical periods had terminated, a new series of events 
commenced, and the work of the first morning of this 
new creation was the calling forth of light from a 
temporary darkness, which had overspread the ruins 
of the ancient earth.' 


226 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

With regard to the formation of the sun and moon, 
Dr. Bucklaud ohserves, p. 27, 'We are not told that 
the substance of the sun and moon was first called 
into existence on the fourth day ; the text may 
equally imply that these bodies were then prepared 
and appointed to certain ofiices, of high importance 
to mankind, ' to give light upon the earth, and 
to rule over the day, and over the night, to be 
for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for 
years.' The fact of their creation had been stated 
before in the first verse.' 

The question of the meaning of the word ^«m, create, 
has been previously touched upon ; it has been ac- 
knowledged by good critics that it does not of itself 
necessarily imply 'to make out of nothing,' upon 
the simple ground that it is found used in cases where 
such a meaning would be inapplicable. But the 
diflEiculty of giving to it the interpretation contended 
for by Dr. Buckland, and of uniting with this the 
assumption of a six days' creation, such as that de- 
scribed in Genesis, at a comparatively recent period, lies 
in this, that the heaven itself is distinctly said to have 
been formed by the division of the waters on the second 
day. Consequently during the indefinite ages which 
elapsed from the primal creation of matter until the 
first Mosaic day of creation, there was no sky, no 
local habitation for the sun, moon, and stars, even 
supposing those bodies to have been included in the 
original material. Dr. Buckland does not touch this 
obvious difficulty, without which his argument that 
the sun and moon might have been contemplated as pre- 
existing, although they are not stated to have been set 
in the heaven until the fourth day, is of no value at all. 
Dr. Buckland appears to assume that when it is 
said that the heaven and the earth were created in the 
beginning, it is to be understood that they were 
created in their present form and state of completeness, 
the heaven raised above the earth as we see it, or 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 227 

seem to see it now. This is the fallacy of his argument. 
The circumstantial description of the framing of the 
heaven out of the waters, proves that the words 
' heaven and earth,' in the first verse, must be taken 
either proleptically, as a general expression for the 
universe, the matter of the universe in its crude and 
unformed shape, or else the word hara must mean 
formed, not created, the writer intending to say, ' God 
formed the heaven and earth in manner following,' in 
which case heaven is used in its distinct and proper 
sense. But these two senses cannot be united in the 
manner covertly assumed in Dr. Buckland's argument. 

Having, however, thus endeavoured to make out that 
the Mosaic account does not negative the idea that 
the sun, moon, and stars had ' been created at the 
indefinitely distant time designated by the word 
beginning,' he is reduced to describe the primeval 
darkness of the first day as ' a temporary darkness, 
produced by an accumulation of dense vapours upon 
the face of the deep.' ' An incipient dispersion of 
these vapours may have readmitted light to the earth, 
upon the first day, whilst the exciting cause of light 
was obscured, and the further purification of the atmo- 
sphere upon the fourth day, may have caused the sun 
and moon and stars to re -appear in the firmament of 
heaven, to assume their new relations to the newly 
modified earth and to the human race.' 

It is needless to discuss the scientific probability of 
this hypothesis, but the violence done to the grand 
and simple words of the Hebrew writer must strike 
every mind. ' And God said. Let there be light — and 
there was light — and God saw the light that it was 
good. And God divided the light from the darkness, 
and God called the light day, and the darkness called 
he night ; and the evening and the morning were the 
first day.' Can any one sensible of the value of words 
suppose, that nothing more is here described, or 
intended to be described, than the partial clearing 

228 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

away of a fog ? Can sucli a manifestation of light have 
been dignified by the appellation of day ? Is not this 
reducing the noble description which has been the 
admiration of ages to a pitiful caput mortuum of 
empty verbiage? 

What were the newrelations^\i\Qk\. theheavenly bodies 
according to Dr. Buckland's view, assumed to the 
newly modified earth and to the human race ? They 
had, as we well know, marked out seasons, days and 
years, and had given light for ages before to the earth, 
and to the animals which preceded man as its inha- 
bitants, as is shown, Dr. Buckland admits, by the eyes 
of fossil animals, optical instruments of the same con- 
struction as those of the animals of our days, and also 
by the existence of vegetables in the early world, to the 
development of which light must have been as essential 
then as now. 

The hypothesis adopted by Dr. Buckland was first 
promulgated at a time when the gradual and regular 
formation of the earth's strata was not seen or ad- 
mitted so clearly as it is now. Geologists were more 
disposed to believe in great catastrophes and sudden 
breaks. Buckland's theory supposes that previous to 
the appearance of the present races of animals and 
vegetables there was a great gap in the globe's history, 
— that the earth was completely depopulated, as well 
of marine as land animals ; and that the creation of all 
existing plants and animals was coa^val with that of 
man. This theory is by no means supported by 
geological phenomena, and is, we suppose, now rejected 
by all geologists whose authority is valuable. Thus 
writes Hugh Miller in 1857 — ^' I certainly did once 
believe with Chalmers and with Buckland that the six 
days were simply natural daysof twenty-four hours each 
— that they had comprised the entire work of the 
existing creation — and that the latest of the geologic 
ages was separated by a great chaotic gap from our 
own. My labours at the time as a practical geologist 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 229 

liad been very much restricted to the palaeozoic and 
secondary rocks, more especially to the old red and 
carboniferous systems of the one division, and the 
oolitic system of the other; and the long-extinct 
organisms which I found in them certainly did not 
conflict with the \iew of Chalmers. All I found 
necessary at the time to the work of reconciliation 
was some scheme that would permit me to assign to 
the earth a high antiquity, and to regard it as the 
scene of many succeeding creations. During the 
last nine years, however, I have spent a few weeks 
every autumn in exploring the late formations, and 
acquainting myself with their particular organisms. 
I have traced them upwards from the raised beaches 
and old coast lines of the human period, to the brick 
clays, Clyde beds, and drift and boulder deposits of 
the Pleistocene era ; and again from them, with the 
help of museums and collections, up through the 
mammaliferous crag of Enghmd to its red and coral 
crags ; and the conclusion at which I have been com- 
pelled to arrive is, that for many long ages ere man 
was ushered into being, not a few of his humbler con- 
temporaries of the fields and woods enjoyed life in 
their present haunts, and that for thousands of years 
anterior to even their appearance, many of the existing 
molluscs lived in our seas. That day during which 
the present creation came into being, and in which 
Grod, when he had made ' the beast of the earth after 
his kind, and the cattle after their kind,' at length 
terminated the work by moulding a creature in His 
own image, to whom He gave dominion over them 
all, was not a brief period of a few hours' duration, 
but extended over, mayhap, millenniums of centuries. 
No blank chaotic gap of death and darkness separated 
the creation to which man belongs from that of the 
old extinct elephant, hippopotamus, and hysena ; for 
familiar animals, such as the red deer, the roe, the fox, 
the wild cat, and the badger, lived throughout the 

230 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

period whicli connected their time with our own ; and 
so I have been compelled to hold that the days of 
creation were not natural but prophetic days, and 
stretched far back into the bygone eternity.'^ 

Hugh Miller will be admitted by many as a com- 
petent witness to the untenability of the theory of 
Chalmers and Buckland on mere geological grounds. 
He had, indeed, a theory of his own to propose, which 
we shall presently consider; but we may take his 
word that it was not without the compulsion of what 
he considered irresistible evidence that he relinquished 
a view which would have saved him infinite time and 
labour, could he have adhered to it. 

But whether contemplated from a geological point 
of view, or whether from a philological one, that is, 
with reference to the value of words, the use of lan- 
guage, and the ordinary rules which govern writers 
whose object it is to make themselves understood by 
those to whom their works are immediately addressed, 
the interpretation proposed by Buckland to be given 
to the Mosaic description will not bear a moment's 
serious discussion. It is plain, from the whole tenor 
of the narrative, that the writer contemplated no such 
representation as that suggested, nor could any such 
idea have entered into the minds of those to whom 
the account was first given. Dr. Buckknd endea- 
vours to make out that we have here simply a case of 
leaving out facts which did not particularly concern 
the writer's purpose, so that he gave an account true 
so far as it went, though imperfect. ' We may fairly 
ask,' he argues, ' of those persons who consider phy- 
sical science a fit subject for revelation, what point 
they can imagine short of a communication of Omni- 
science at which such a revelation might have stopped 
without imperfections of omission, less in degree, but 

' Testimony of the Rocks, p. lo. 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 231 

similar in. kind, to tliat wliicli they impute to tlie 
existino^ narrative of Moses ? A revelation of so 
much only of astronomy as was known to Copernicus 
would have seemed imperfect after the discoveries of 
Newton ; and a revelation of the science of Newton 
would have appeared defective to La Place : a revela- 
tion of all the chemical knowledge of the eighteenth 
century would have been as deficient in comparison 
with the information of the present day, as what is 
now known in this science will probably appear before 
the termination of another age ; in the whole circle 
of sciences there is not one to which this argument 
may not be extended, until we should require from 
revelation a full development of all the mysterious 
agencies that uphold the mechanism of the material 
world.' Buckland's question is quite inapplicable to the 
real difficulty, which is, not that circumstantial details 
are omitted — that might reasonably be expected, — but 
that what is told, is told so as to convey to ordinary 
apprehensions an impression at variance with facts. 
We are indeed told that certain writers of antiquity 
had already anticipated the hypothesis of the geologist, 
and two of the Christian fathers, Augustine and 
Theodoret, are referred to as having actually held 
that a wide interval elapsed between the first act of 
creation, mentioned in the Mosaic account, and the 
commencement of the six days' work.^ If, however, 
they arrived at such a conclusion, it was simply be- 
cause, like the modern geologist, they had theories of 
their own to support, which led them to make some- 
what similar hypotheses. 

' After all,' says Buckland, ' it should be recollected 
that the question is not respecting the correctness of 
the Mosaic narrative, but of our interpretation of it,' 
a proposition which can hardly be sufficiently re- 

' See Dr. Pusey's note — Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise, pp. 24, 25. 

232 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

probated. Such a doctrine, carried out unreservedly, 
strikes at the root of critical morality. It may, in- 
deed, be sometimes possible to give two or three dif- 
ferent interpretations to one and the same passage, 
even in a modern and familiar tongue, in which case 
this may arise from the unskilfulness of the writer or 
speaker who has failed clearly to express his thought. 
In a dead or foreign language the difficulty may arise 
from our own want of familiarity witli its forms of 
speech, or in an ancient book we may be puzzled by 
allusions and modes of thought the key to which has 
been lost. But it is no part of the commentator's 
or interpreter's business to introduce obscurity or find 
difficulties where none exist, and it cannot be pre- 
tended that, taking it as a question of the use of 
words to express thoughts, there are any peculiar 
difficulties about understanding the first chapter of 
Genesis, whether in its original Hebrew or in our 
common translation, which represents the original 
with all necessary exactness. The difficulties arise 
for the first time, when we seek to import a meaning 
into the language which it certainly never could have 
conveyed to those to whom it was originally addressed. 
Unless we go the whole length of supposing the sim- 
ple account of the Hebrew cosmogonist to be a series 
of awkward equivocations, in which he attempted to 
give a representation widely different from the facts, 
yet, without trespassing against literal truth, we can 
find no difficulty in interpreting his words. Although 
language may be, and often has been, used for the pur- 
pose, not of expressing, but concealing thought, no such 
charge can fairly be laid against the Hebrew writer. 

' It should be borne in mind,' says Dr. Buckland, 
* that the object of the account was, not to state 
in ivhat manner, but hy whom the world was made.' 
Every one must see that this is an unfounded asser- 
tion, inasmuch as the greater part of the narra- 
tive consists in a minute and orderly description of 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 233 

the manner in which things were made. We can 
know nothing as to the object of the account, except 
from the account itself. What the writer meant 
to state is just that which he has stated, for all that 
we can know to the contrary. Or can we seriously be- 
lieve that if appealed to by one of his Hebrew hearers 
or readers as to his intention, he would have replied, 
My only object in what I have written is to inform 
you that God made the world ; as to the manner of 
His doing it, of which I have given so exact an ac- 
count, I have no intention that my words should be 
taken in their literal meaning. 

We come then to this, that if we sift the Mosaic 
narrative of all definite meaning, and only allow it to 
be the expression of the most vague generalities, if 
we avow that it admits of no certain interpretation, 
of none that may not be shifted and altered as often 
as we see fit, and as the exigencies of geology may 
require, then may we reconcile it with what science 
teaches. This mode of dealing with the subject has 
been broadly advocated by a recent writer of mathe- 
matical eminence, who adopts the Bucklandian hypo- 
thesis, a passage from whose work we shall quote. ^ 

' The Mosaic account of the six days' work is thus 
harmonized by some. On the first day, while the 
earth was ' without form and void,' the result of a 
previous convulsion in nature, ' and darkness was 
upon the face of the deep/ God commanded light 
to shine upon the earth. This may have been 
effected by such a clearing of the thick and loaded 
atmosphere, as to allow the light of the sun to pene^ 
trate its mass with a suffVised illumination, sufficient 
to dispel the total darkness which had prevailed, but 
proceeding from a source not yet apparent on the 
earth. On the second day a separation took place in 

^ Scripture and Science not at Variance. By J. H. Pratt, M.A., 
Archdeacon of Calcutta, 1859. Third edition, p. 34. 

234 Mosaic Cosmogony . 

the thick vapoury mass which lay upon the earth, 
dense clouds were gathered up aloft and separated by 
an exjjanse from the waters and vapours below. On 
the third day these lower vapours, or fogs and mists 
wdiich hitherto concealed the earth, were condensed 
and gathered with the other waters of the earth into 
seas, and the dry land appeared. Then grass and 
herbs began to grow. On the fourth day the clouds 
and vapours so rolled into separate masses, or were so 
entirely absorbed into the air itself, that the sun shone 
forth in all its brilliancy, the visible source of light 
and heat to the renovated earth, while the moon and 
stars gave light by night, and God appointed them 
henceforth for signs, and for seasons, and for days, 
and for years, to his creatures whom he was about to 
call into existence, as he afterwards set or appointed 
his bow in the clouds, which had appeared ages before, 
to be a sign to Noah and his descendants. The fifth 
and sixth days' work needs no comment. 

' According to this explanation, the first chapter of 
Genesis does not pretend (as has been generally 
assumed) to be a cosmogony, or an account of the 
original creation of the material universe. The only 
cosmogony which it contains, in that sense at least, is 
confined to the sublime declaration of the first verse, 
' In the beo-innincr God created the heavens and the 
earth.' The inspired record thus stepping over an 
interval of indefinite ages with which man has no 
direct concern, proceeds at once to narrate the events 
preparatory to the introduction of man on the scene ; 
employing phraseology strictly faithful to the appear- 
ances which would have met the e3^e of man, could he 
have been a spectator on the earth of what passed 
during those six days. All this has been commonly 
supposed to be a more detailed account of the general 
truth announced in the first verse, in short, a cosmo- 
gony : such was the idea of Joseplms ; such probably 
Avas the idea of our translators ; for their version. 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 235 

without form and void, points to the primaeval chaos, 
out of which all things were then supposed to emerge ; 
and these words standing in limine, have tended, per- 
haps more than anything else, to foster the idea of a 
cosmogony in the minds of general readers to this 
very day. 

' The foregoing explanation many have now adopted. 
It is sufficient for my purpose, if it be a possible ex- 
planation, and if it meet the difficulties of the case. 
That it is possible in itself, is plain from the fact 
above established, that the Scriptures wisely speak on 
natural things according to their appearances rather 
than their physical realities. It meets the difficulties 
of the case, because all the difficulties hitherto started 
against this chapter on scientific grounds proceeded 
on the principle that it is a cosmogony ; which this 
explanation repudiates, and thus disposes of the diffi- 
culties. It is therefore an explanation satisfactory 
to my own mind. I may be tempted to regret that I 
can gain no certain scientific information from Genesis 
regarding the process of the original creation ; but I 
resist the temptation, remembering the great object for 
which the Scripture was given — to tell man of his 
origin and fall, and to draw his mind to his Creator 
and Redeemer. Scripture was not designed to teach 
us natural philosophy, and it is vain to attempt to 
make a cosmogony out oi its statements. The Al- 
mighty declares himself the originator of all things, 
but he condescends not to describe the process or the 
laws by which he worked. All this he leaves for 
reason to decipher from the phenomena which his 
world displays. 

' This explanation, however, I do not wish to impose 
on Scripture ; and am fully prepared to surrender it, 
should further scientific discovery suggest another 
better fitted to meet all the requirements of the case.' 

We venture to think that the world at large will 
continue to consider the account in the first chapter of 

236 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

Genesis to be a cosmogony. But as it is here ad- 
mitted that it does not describe physical realities, 
but only outward appearances, that is, gives a de- 
scription false in fact, and one which can teach us no 
scientific truth whatever, it seems to matter little 
what we call it. If its description of the events of the 
six days which it comprises be merely one of appear- 
ances and not of realities, it can teach us nothing 
regarding them. » 

Dissatisfied with the scheme of conciliation which 
has been discussed, other geologists have proposed to 
give an entirely mythical or enigmatical sense to the 
Mosaic narrative, and to consider the creative days 
described as vast periods of time. This plan was 
long ago suggested, but it has of late enjoyed a high 
degree of popularity, through the advocacy of the 
Scotch geologist Hugh Miller, an extract from whose 
work has been already quoted. Dr. Buckland gives 
the following account of the first form in which this 
theory was propounded, and of the grounds upon 
which he rejected it in favour of that of Chalmers •} — 

' A third opinion has been suggested both by 
learned theologians and by geologists, and on 
grounds independent of one another — viz., that 
the days of the Mosaic creation need not be un- 
derstood to imply the same length of time which 
is now occupied by a single revolution of the globe, 
but successive periods each of great extent ; and it 
has been asserted that the order of succession of the 
organic remains of a former world accords with the 
order of creation recorded in Genesis. This assertion, 
though to a certain degree apparently correct, is not 
entirely supported by geological facts, since it appears 
that the most ancient marine animals occur in the 
same division of the lowest transition strata with the 

^ Brldgewater Treatise, p. 17. 

Mosaic Cosmo ff 0721/. 237 

earliest remains of vegetables, so tliat the evidence of 
organic remains, as far as it goes, shows the origin of 
plants and animals to have been contemporaneous : if 
any creation of vegetables preceded that of animals, 
no evidence of such an event has yet been discovered 
by the researches of geology. Still there is, T believe, 
no sound critical or theological objection to the inter- 
pretation of the word * day' as meaning a long 

Archdeacon Pratt also summarily rejects this view 
as untenable •} — 

' There is one other class of interpreters, however, 
with whom I find it impossible to agree, — I mean 
those who take the six days to be six periods of un- 
known indefinite length. This is the princij)le of 
interpretation in a work on the Creation and the Fall, 
by the Eev. D. Macdonald ; also in Mr. Hugh Miller's 
posthumous work, the Testiynoyiy of the Rocks, and also 
in an admirable treatise on the PrcB-Adamite Earth 
in Dr. Lardner's Museum of Science. In this last it 
is the more surprising because the successive chapters 
are in fact an accumulation of evidence which points 
the other way, as a writer in the Christiaii Observer, 
Jan. 1858, has conclusively shown. The late M. 
D'Orbign}' has demonstrated in his Prodrome de 
Palceontologie, after an elaborate examination of vast 
multitudes of fossils, that there have been at least 
twenty-nine distinct periods of animal and vegetable 
existence — that is, twenty-nine creations separated one 
from another by catastrophes which have swept away 
the species existing at the time, with a very few 
solitary exceptions, never exceeding one and a- half per 
cent, of the Avhole number discovered which have 
either survived the catastrophe, or have been erro- 
neously designated. But not a single species of the 

^ Science and Scripture not at Variance, p. 40, note. 

238 Mosaic Cosmogoiiy. 

preceding period survived tlie last of tliese catastrophes, 
and this closed the Tertiary period and ushered in 
the Human period. The evidence adduced by M. 
D'Orbigny shows that both plants and animals ap- 
peared in every one of those twenty-nine periods. 
The notion, therefore, that the ' days' of Grenesis 
represent periods of creation from the beginning of 
things is at once refuted. The parallel is destroyed 
both in the number of the periods (thirty, including 
the Azoic, instead of six), and also in the character 
of the tilings created. No argument could be more 
complete ; and yet the vs^riter of the Free- Adamite 
Uarih, in the last two pages, sums up his lucid sketch 
of M, D'Orbigny 's researches by referring the account 
in the first chapter of Genesis to the whole creation 
from the beginning of all things, a selection of epochs 
being made, as he imagines, for the six days or 

In this trenchant manner do theological geologists 
overthrow one another's theories. However, Hugh 
Miller was perfectly aware of the difficulty involved 
in his view of the question, and we shall endeavour to 
show the reader the manner in which he deals with it. 

He begins bypointing out that the families of vegeta- 
bles and animals were introduced upon earth as nearly 
as possible according to the great classes in which 
naturalists have arranged the modern flora and fauna. 
According to the arrangement of Lindley, he observes 
— ' Commencing at the bottom of the scale we find 
the thallogens, or flowerless plants, which lack proper 
stems and leaves — a class which includes all the algse. 
Next succeed the acrogens, or flowerless plants that 
possess both stems and leaves — such as the ferns and 
their allies. Next, omitting an inconspicuous class, 
represented by but a few parasitical plants incapable 
of preservation as fossils, come the endogens — 
rnonocotyledonous flowering plants, that include the 
palms, the liliacese, and several other families, all 

Mosaic Comiogony. 239 

characterized by tlie parallel venation of their leaves. 
Next, omitting another inconspicuous tribe, there 
follows a very important class, the gymnogens — 
polycotyledonous trees, represented by the coniferse 
and cycadacese. And last of all come the dicotyledonous 
exogens — a class to which all our fruit and what are 
known as our forest trees belong, with a vastly pre- 
ponderating majority of the herbs and flowers that 
impart fertility and beauty to our gardens and 
meadows.' The order in which fossils of these several 
classes appear in the strata, Hugh Miller states 
to be as follows : — In the Lower Silurian we find only 
thallogens, in the Upper Silurian acrogens are added. 
The gymnogens appear rather prematurely, it might 
be thought, in the old red sandstone, the endogens 
(monocotyledonous) coming after them in the carboni- 
ferous group. Dicotyledonous exogens enter at the 
close of the oolitic period, and come to their greatest 
development in the tertiary. Again, the animal tribes 
have been introduced in an order closely agreeing with 
the geological divisions established by Cuvier. In the 
Silurian beds the invertebrate creatures, the radiata, 
articulata, and mollusca, appear simultaneously. At 
the close of the period, fishes, the lowest of the verte- 
brata, appear : before the old red sandstone period had 
passed away, reptiles had come into existence ; birds, 
and the marsupial mammals, enter in the oolitic period ; 
placental mammals in the tertiary ; and man last of all. 
Now, these facts do certainly tally to some extent 
with tlie Mosaic account, which represents fish and fowl 
as having been produced from the waters on the fifth 
day, reptiles and mammals from the earth on the 
sixth, and man as made last of all. The agreement, 
however, is far from exact, as according to geological 
evidence, reptiles would appear to have existed ages 
before birds and mammals, whereas here the creation 
of birds is attributed to the fifth day, that of reptiles 
to the sixth. There remains, moreover, the insuperable 

240 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

difficulty of tlie plants and trees being represented 
as made on the third day — that is, more than an age 
before fishes and birds ; which is clearly not the case. 

Although, therefore, there is a superficial resem- 
blance in the Mosaic account to that of the geologists, 
it is evident that the bare theory that a ' day' means 
an age or immense geological period might be made 
to yield some rather strange results. What becomes 
of the evening and morning of which each day is said 
to have consisted ? Was each geologic age divided into 
two long intervals, one all darkness, the other all light ? 
and if so, what became of the plants and trees created 
in the third day or period, when the evening of the 
fourth day (the evenings, be it observed, precede 
the mornings) set in ? They must have passed 
through half a seculum of total darkness, not even 
cheered by that dim light which the sun, not yet com- 
pletely manifested, supplied on the morning of the third 
day. Such an ordeal would have completely destroyed 
the whole vegetable creation, and yet we find that it 
survived, and was appointed on the sixth day as the 
food of man and animals. In fact, we need only sub- 
stitute the word ' period' for ' day' in the Mosaic nar- 
rative to make it very apparent that the writer at least 
had no such meaning, nor could he have conveyed 
any such meaning to those who first heard his account 

' It has been held,' says Hugh Miller^ ' by accom- 
plished philologists, that the days of Mosaic creation 
may be regarded without doing violence to the Hebrew 
language, as successive periods of great extent.'^ We 
do not believe that there is any ground for this doc- 
trine. The word ' day' is certainl}^ used occasionally in 
particular phrases, in an indefinite manner, not only 
in Hebrew, but other languages. As for instance. 
Gen. xxxix. u — 'About this time,' Heb. literally, 

* Testimony, p. 133. 

Mosaic Cosmogony. )ii\ 

' about tills day,' But every such phrase exphiins 
itself, and not only philology hut common sense dis- 
claims the notion, that when ' day' is spoken of in terms 
like those in the first chapter of Genesis, and described 
as consisting of an evening and a morning, it can 
be understood to mean a seculum. 

Archdeacon Pratt, treating on the same subject, 
says (p. 41, note), ' Were there no other ground of 
objection to this mode of interpretation, I think the 
wording of the fourth commandment is clearly opposed 
to it. Ex. XX. 8. ' Eemember the Sabbath day to 
keep it holy. 9. Six days shalt thou labour ancl do 
all thy work 10. But the seventh day is the Sabbath 
of the Lord thy God. In it, thou shalt not do any 
work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man- 
servant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy 
stranger that is within thy gates. 11. For in six 
clays the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and 
all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; 
wherefore the Lord Ijlessed the Sabbath day and 
hallowed it.' 

' Is it not a harsh and forced interpretation to sup- 
pose that the six days in v. 9 do not mean the same 
as the six days in v. 11, but that in this last place they 
mean six periods ? In reading through the eleventh 
verse, it is extremely difficult to believe that the seventh 
day is a long period, and the sabbath day an ordinary 
day, that is, that the same word day should be used in 
two such totally different senses in the same short 
sentence and without any explanation.' 

Hugh Miller saw the difficulty ; but he endeavours 
to escape the consequences of a rigorous application 
of the periodic theory by modifying it in a peculiar, 
and certainly ingenious manner. ' AVaiving,' he says, 
' the question as a philological one, and simply holding 
with Cuvier, Parkinson, and Silliman, that each of 
the six days of the Mosaic account in the first chapter 


242 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

were wliat is assuredly meant by the dajl referred to 
in the second, not natural days but lengthened periods, 
I find myself called on, as a geologist, to account 
for but three out of the six. Of the period during 
which light was created, of the period during which a 
firmament was made to separate the waters from the 
waters, or of the period during which the two great 
lights of the earth, with the other heavenly bodies, 
became visible from the earth's surface — we need 
expect to find no record in the rocks. Let me, how- 
ever, pause for a moment, to remark the peculiar 
character of the language in which we are first intro- 
duced in the Mosaic narrative to the heavenly bodies 
— sun, moon, and stars. The moon, though absolutely 
one of the smallest lights of our system, is described as 
secondary and subordinate to only its greatest light, 
the sun. It is the apparent, then, not the actual, which 
we find in the passage — what seemed to be, not 
what loas ; and as it was merely what appeared to 
be greatest that was described as greatest, on wdiat 
grounds are we to hold that it ma^^ not also have been 
what cqypeared at the time to be made that has been 
described as made ? The sun, moon, and stars, may 
have been created long before, though it was not until 
this fourth day of creation that they became visible 
from the earth's surface.''^ 

The tlieory founded upon this hint is that the 
Hebrew writer did not state facts, but merely certain 
appearances, and those not of things which really hap- 

' The expression, Gen. ii. 4, ' In the day that the Lord God created 
the earth and heaven,' to which Hugli Miller here refei's, may possibly 
mean ' at the time when,' meaning a week, year, or other limited time. But 
there is not the smallest reason for understanding it to mean ' a,len(jthe>icd 
period,' i.e., an immense lapse of time. Such a construction would be in- 
admissible in the Hebrew, or any other language. It is difficult to acquit 
Hugh Miller of an equivocation here. In real truth, the second narrative 
is, as we have before observed, of distinct origin from the first, and we 
incline to the belief that, in this case also, ' day' is to be taken in its pi'oper 

* Testimony, p. 134. 

Mosaic Cosmofjoiiy. 243 

pened, as assumed in tlie explanation adopted by 
Archdeacon Pratt, but of certain occurrences wliicli 
were presented to him in a vision, and that this 
vision greatly deceived him as to what he seemed 
to see ; and thus, in effect, the real discrepancy of 
tlie narrative with facts is admitted. He had in 
all, seven visions, to each of which he attributed the 
duration of a day, although indeed each picture 
presented to him the earth during seven long and dis- 
tinctly marked epochs. While on the one hand tliis 
supposition admits all desirable latitude for mistakes 
and misrepresentations, Hugh Miller, on the other 
hand, endeavours to show that a substantial ag-reement 
with the truth exists, and to give sufficient reason 
for the mistakes. We must let him speak for him- 
self. ' The geologist, in his attempts to collate 
the Divine with the geologic record, has, I repeat, 
onl}^ tlu'ee of the six periods of creation to account 
for^ — the period of plants, the period of great sea- 
monsters and creeping things, and the period of cattle 
and beasts of the earth. He is called on to question 
his systems and formations regarding the remains of 
these three great periods, and of them only. And the 
question once fairly stated, what, I ask, is the reply ? 
All geologists agree in holding that the vast geological 
scale naturally divides into three great parts. There 
are many lesser divisions — divisions into systems, 
formations, deposits, beds, strata ; but the master 
divisions, in each of which we find a type of life so 
unlike that of the others, that even the unpractised 
eye can detect the difference, are simply three : the 
palaeozoic, or oldest fossiliferous division; the secondary. 

* A very inadmissible assertion. Any one, be he geologist, astronomer, 
theolog-ian, or philologist, who attempts to explain the Hebrew narrative, 
is bound to take it with all that really belongs to it. And in truth, if the 
fourth day really represented an epoch of creative activity, geology would 
be able to give some account of it. There is no reason to suppose that auy 
intermission has taken place. 

R 2 

244 Mosaic Cosmorjovy. 

or middle fossiliferous division ; and the tertiary, or 
latest fossiliferous division. In the first, or palseozoic 
division, we find corals, crustaceans, molluscs, fishes ; 
and in its later formations, a few reptiles. But none of 
these classes give its leading character to the pala30zoic ; 
they do not constitute its prominent feature, or render 
it more remarkable as a scene of life than any of the 
divisions which followed. That which chiefly dis- 
tinguished the pala?ozoic from the secondary and 
tertiary periods was its gorgeous flora. It was em- 
phatically the period of plants — ' of herbs yielding 
seed after their kind.' In no other ao-e did the world 
ever witness such a flora ; the youth of the earth was 
peculiarly a green and umbrageous j^outh — a youth of 
dusk and tangled forests, of huge pines and stately 
araucarians, of the reed-like calamite, the tall tree-fern, 
the sculptured sigillaria,and the hirsute lepidodendrons. 
Wherever dry land, or shallow lakes, or running stream 
appeared, from where Melville Island now spreads out 
its icy coast under the star of the pole, to where the 
arid plains of Australia lie solitary beneath the bright 
cross of the south, a rank and luxuriant herbage cum- 
bered every foot-breadth of the dank and steaming soil; 
and even to distant planets our earth must have shone 
through the enveloping cloud with a green and deli- 
cate ra}^ . . . The geologic evidence is so com- 
plete as to be patent to all, that the first great period 
of organized being was, as described in the Mosaic 
record, peculiarly a period of herbs and trees 'yielding 
seed after their kind.' 

' The middle great period of the geologist — that of 
the secondary division — possessed, like the earlier one, 
its herbs and plants, but they were of a*greatly less 
luxuriant and conspicuous character than their pre- 
decessors, and no longer formed the prominent trait 
or feature of the creation to which they belonged. 
The period had also its corals, its crustaceans, its 
molluscs, its fishes, and in some one or two excep- 

Mosaic Cusmogony. 245 

tional instances, its dwarf mammals. But the grand 
existences of the age — the existences in which it ex- 
celled every other creation, earlier or later — were its 
huge creeping things — its enormous monsters of the 
deep, and, as shown by the impressions of their foot- 
prints stamped upon the rocks, its gigantic birds. It 
was peculiarly the age of egg-bearing animals, winged 
and wingless. Its wonderful lohales, not however, as 
now, of the mammalian, but of the reptilian class, — 
ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and cetosaurs, must have 
tempested the deep ; its creeping lizards and croco- 
diles, such as the teliosaurus, megalosaurus, and igua- 
nodon — creatures, some of which more than rivalled 
the existing elephant in height, and greatly more than 
rivalled him in bulk — must have crowded the plains, 
or haunted by myriads the rivers of the period ; and 
we know that the foot-prints of at least one of its 
many birds are of fully twice the size of those made 
by the horse or camel. We are thus prepared to de- 
monstrate, that the second period of the geologist was 
peculiarly and characteristically a period of whale-like 
reptiles of the sea, of enormous creeping reptiles of 
the land, and of numerous birds, some of them of 
gigantic size; and in meet accordance with the fact, 
we find that the second Mosaic period with which the 
geologist is called on to deal, was a period in which 
God created the fowl that flieth above the earth, with 
moving (or creeping) creatures, both in the waters and 
on land, and what our translation renders great whales, 
but that I find rendered in the margin great sea- 
monsters. The tertiary period had also its prominent 
class of existences. Its flora seems to have been no 
more conspicuous than that of the present time ; its 
reptiles occupy a very subordinate place ; but its 
beasts of the field were by far the most wonderfully 
developed, both in size and numbers, that ever ap- 
peared on earth. Its mammoths and its n.astodons, 
its rhinoceri and its hippopotami, its enormous dino- 

246 Mosaic Cosmocjony. 

therium, and colossal megatherium, greatly more than 
equalled m bulk the hugest mammals of the present 
time, and vastly exceeded them in number. * * * 
' Grand, indeed,' says an English naturalist, ' was the 
fauna of the British Islands in these early days. 
Tigers as large again as the biggest Asiatic species 
lurked in the ancient thickets ; elephants of nearly 
twice the bulk of the largest individuals that now 
exist in Africa or Ceylon roamed in herds ; at least 
two species of rhinoceros forced their way through 
the primaeval forest ; and the lakes and rivers were 
tenanted by hippopotami as bulky and with as great 
tusks as those of Africa.' The massive cave-bear and 
large cave-hya?na belonged to the same formidable 
group, with at least two species of great oxen {^Bos 
longifroiis and Bos primi(/e)ims), with a horse of smaller 
size, and an elk ^Megaceros Hibernicus) that stood ten 
feet four inches in height. Truly, this Tertiary age 
— this third and last of the great geologic periods — 
was peculiarly the age of great ' beasts of the earth 
after their kind, and cattle after their kind.' ' 

Thus by dropping the invertebrata, and the early 
fishes and reptiles of the Palseozoic period as incon- 
spicuous and of little account, and bringing promi- 
nently forward the carboniferous era which succeeded 
them as the most characteristic feature of the first 
great division, by classing the great land reptiles of 
the secondary period with the moving creatures of the 
waters, (for in the Mosaic account it does not appear 
that any inhabitants of the land were created on the 
fifth day), and evading the fact that terrestrial reptiles 
seem to have preceded birds in their order of appear- 
ance upon earth, the geologic divisions are tolerably 
well assimilated to the third, fifth, and sixth Mosaic 
days. These things were represented, we are told, to 
Moses in visionary pictures, and resulted in the short 
and summary account which he has given. 

There is something in this hypothesis very near to 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 247 

tlie obvious truth, wliile at the same time something 
very remote from that truth is meant to be inferred. 
If it be said the Mosaic account is simply the specu- 
lation of some early Copernicus or Newton who 
devised a scheme of the earth's formation, as nearly 
as he might in accordance with his own observations 
of nature, and with such views of things as it was 
possible for an unassisted thinker in those days to 
take, we may admire the approximate correctness of 
the picture drawn, while we see that the writer, as 
might be expected, took everything from a different 
point of view from ourselves, and consequently repre- 
sented much quite differently from the fact. But 
nothing of this sort is really intended. We are 
asked to believe that a vision of creation was pre- 't' 
sented to him by Divine power, for the purpose of 
enabling him to inform the world of what he had 
seen, which vision inevitably led him to give a de- 
scription which has misled the world for centuries, 
and in which the truth can now only with difficulty 
be recognised. The Hebrew writer informs us that 
on the third day ' the earth brought forth grass, the 
herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding 
fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind ;' and in 
the 29th verse, that God on the sixth day said, ' Be- 
hold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which 
is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the 
which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it 
shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, 
and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that 
creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have 
given every green herb for meat.' Can it be disputed 
that the writer here conceives that grass, corn, and 
fruit, were created on the third day, and with a view 
to the future nourishment of man and beast? Yet, 
according to the vision hypothesis, he must have been 
greatly deceived ; for that luxuriant vegetation which 
he saw on the third day, consisted not of plants des- 

248 Mosaic Cosmo(/on?/. 

tilled for the food of man, but for his fueh It was the 
flora of the carboniferous period which he behekl, con- 
cerning which Hugh Miller makes the following re- 
mark, p. 24 : — ' The existing plants whence we derive 
our analogies in dealing with the vegetation of this 
early period, contribute but little, if at all, to the sup- 
port of animal life. The ferns and their allies remain 
untouched by the grazing animals. Our native club- 
mosses, though once used in medicine, are positively 
deleterious ; the horsetails, though harmless, so abound 
in silex, which wraps them round with a cuticle of 
stone, that they are rarely cropped by cattle ; while 
the thickets of fern which cover our hill-sides, and 
seem so temptingly rich and green in their season, 
scarce support the existence of a single creature, and 
remain untouched in stem and leaf from their first 
appearance in spring, until they droop and wither 
under the frosts of early winter. Even the insects 
that infest the herbaria of the botanist almost never 
injure his ferns. Nor are our resin-producing conifers, 
though they nourish a few beetles, favourites with the 
herbivorous tribes in a much greater degree. Judging 
from all we yet know, the earliest terrestrial flora may 
have covered the dry land with its mantle of cheerful 
green, and served its general purposes, chemical and 
others, in the well-balanced economy of nature ; but 
the herb-eating animals would have fared but ill, even 
where it throve most luxuriantly ; and it seems to 
harmonize with the fact of its unedible character that 
up to the present time we know not that a single 
herbivorous animal lived amongst its shades.' The 
Mosaic writer is, however, according to the theory, 
misled by the mere appearance of luxuriant vegetation, 
to describe fruit trees and edible seed-bearing vege- 
tables as products of the third day. 

Hugh Miller's treatment of the description of the 
first dawn of light is not more satisfactory than that 
of Dr. Buckland. He supposes the prophet in his 

JSlosaic Cosmogony. 249 

dream to liave heard the command ' Let there be lig-lit' 
enunciated, whereupon ' straightway a gre}^ diffused 
light springs up in the east, and casting its sicJdij gleam 
over a cloud-Hmited expanse of steaming vaporous 
sea, journeys through the heavens towards the west. 
One heavy, sunless day is made the representative of 
myriads ; the faint light waxes fainter, — it sinks be- 
neath the dim, undefined horizon.' 

We are then asked to imagine that a second and a 
third day, each representing the characteristic features 
of a great distinctly-marked epoch, and the latter of 
them marked by the appearance of a rich and luxuriant 
vegetation, are presented to the seer's eye ; but with- 
out sun, moon, or stars as yet entering into his dream. 
Tliese appear first in his fourth vision, and then for the 
first time we have ' a brilliant day,' and the seer, 
struck with the novelty, describes the heavenly bodies 
as being the most conspicuous objects in the ]3icture. 
In reality we know that he represents them (v. i6) as 
having been made and set in the heavens on that day, 
though Hugh Miller avoids reminding us of this. 

In one respect the theory of Hugh Miller agrees with 
that advocated by Dr. Buck] and and Archdeacon Pratt. 
Both these theories divest the Mosaic narrative of real 
accordance with fact ; both assume that appearances 
only, not facts, are described, and that in riddles, which 
would never have been suspected to be such, had we 
not arrived at the ti'uth from other sources. It would 
be difficult for controversialists to cede more completely 
the point in dispute, or to admit more explicitly that 
the Mosaic narrative does not represent correctly 
the history of the universe up to the time of man. 
At the same time, the upholders of each theory see 
insuperable objections in details to that of their allies, 
and do not pretend to any firm faith in their own. 
How can it be otherwise when the task proposed is to 
evade the plain meaning of language, and to introduce 
obscurity into one of the simplest stories ever told. 


50 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

for the sake of making it accord with tlie complex 
system of the universe which modern science has un- 
folded? The spectacle of ahle and, we doubt not, 
conscientious writers engaged in attempting the im- 
possible is painful and humiliating. They evidently 
do not breathe freely over their work, but shuffle and 
stumble over their difficulties in a piteous manner; 
nor are they themselves again until they return to the 
pure and open fields of science. 

It is refreshing to return to the often-echoed remark, 
that it could not have been the object of a Divine 
revelation to instruct mankind in physical science, 
man having had faculties bestowed upon him to enable 
him to acquire this knowledge by himself. This is in 
fact pretty generally admitted ; but in the application of 
the doctrine, writers play at fast and loose with it ac- 
cording to circumstances. Thus an inspired writer 
may be permitted to allude to the phenomena of nature 
accordino" to the vulsrar view of such thino-s, w^ithout 
impeachment of his better knowledge ; but if he speaks 
of the same phenomena assertively, we are bound to 
suppose that things are as he represents them, how- 
ever much our knowledge of nature may be disposed to 
recalcitrate. But if vve find a difficult}^ in admitting that 
such misrepresentations can find a place in revelation, 
the difficulty lies in our having previously assumed 
what a Divine revelation ought to be If God made use 
of imperfectly informed men to lay the foundations ot 
that higher knowledge for which the human race was 
destined, is it wonderful that they should have com- 
mitted themselves to assertions not in accordance with 
facts, although they ma}^ have believed them to be 
true ? On what grounds has the popular notion of 
Divine revelation been built up ? Is it not plain that 
the plan of Providence for the education of man is a 
progressive one, and as imperfect men have been used 
as the agents for teaching mankind, is it not to be 
expected that their teachings should be partial and, to 

Mosaic Cosmogonij. 251 

some extent, erroneous ? Admitted, as it is, that 
physical science is not what the Hebrew writers, for 
the most part, profess to convey, at any rate, that it 
is not on account of the communication of such know- 
ledge that we attach any value to their writings, why 
should we hesitate to recognise their fallibility on this 
head ? 

Admitting, as is historically and in fact the case, 
that it was the mission of the Hebrew race to lay the 
foundation of religion upon the earth, and that Pro- 
vidence used this people specially for this purpose, is it 
not our business and our duty to look and see how 
this has really been done ? not forming for ourselves 
theories of what a revelation ought to be, or how we, 
if entrusted with the task, would have made one, but 
inquiring how it has pleased Grod to do it. In all his 
theories of the world, man has at first deviated widely 
from the truth, and has only gradually come to see 
how far otherwise God has ordered things than the 
first daring speculator had supposed. It has been 
popularly assumed that the Bible, bearing the st^iiup 
of Divine authority, must be complete, perfect, and 
unimpeachable in all its parts, and a thousand diffi- 
culties and incoherent doctrines have sprung out of 
this theory. Men have proceeded in the matter of 
theology, as they did with physical science before in- 
ductive philosophy sent them to the feet of nature, 
and bid them learn in patience and obedience the 
lessons which she had to teach. Dogma and groundless 
assumption occupy the place of modest inquiry after 
truth, while at the same time the upholders of these 
theories claim credit for humility and submissiveness. 
This is exactly inverting the fact ; the humble scholar 
of truth is not he who, taking his stand upon the 
traditions of rabbins, Christian fathers, or school- 
men, insists upon bending facts to his unyielding 
standard, but he who is willing to accept such teaching 
as it has pleased Divine Providence to afford, without 

253 Mosaic Cosmogony. 

murmuring tliat it lias not been furnished more 
copiously or clearly. 

The Hebrew race, their works, and their books, are 
great facts in the history of man ; the influence of 
the mind of this people upon the rest of mankind has 
been immense and peculiar, and there can be no diffi- 
culty in recognising therein the hand of a directing 
Providence. But we may not make ourselves wiser 
than God, nor attribute to Him methods of procedure 
which are not His. If, then, it is plain that He has 
not thought it needful to communicate to the writer 
of the Cosmogony that knowledge which modern re- 
searches have revealed, why do we not acknowledge 
this, except that it conflicts with a human theory 
which presumes to point out how God ought to have 
instructed man ? The treatment to which the Mosaic 
narrative is subjected by the theological geologists is 
anything but respectful. The writers of this school, 
as we have seen, agree in representing it as a series of 
elaborate equivocations — a story which ' palters with 
us in a double sense.' But if we regard it as the 
speculation of some Hebrew Descartes or Newton, 
promulgated in all good faith as the best and most 
probable account that could be then given of God's 
universe, it resumes the dignity and value of which 
the writers in question have done their utmost to de- 
prive it. It has been sometimes felt as a difficulty to 
taking this view of the case, that the writer asserts so 
solemnly and unhesitatingly that for which he must 
have known that he had no authority. But this arises 
only from our modern habits of thought, and from 
the modesty of assertion which the spirit of true science 
has taught us. Mankind has learnt caution through 
repeated slips in the process of tracing out the truth. 

The early speculator was harassed by no such 
scruples, and asserted as facts what he knew in reality 
only as probabilities. But we are not on that account 
to doubt his perfect good faith, nor need we attribute 

Mosaic Cosmogony. 253 

to him wilful misrepresentation, or consciousness of 
assertinof that which he knew not to be true. He had 
seized one great truth, in which, indeed, he anticipated 
the highest revelation of modern inquiry — namely, 
the unity of the design of the world, and its subordi- 
nation to one sole Maker and Lawgiver. With regard 
to details, observation failed him. He knew little of 
the earth's surface, or of its shape and place in the 
universe ; the infinite varieties of organized existences 
which people it, the distinct floras and faunas of its 
different continents, were unknown to him. But he 
saw that all which lay within his observation had been 
formed for the benefit and service of man, and the 
goodness of the Creator to his creatures was the 
thought predominant in his mind. Man's closer rela- 
tion to his Maker is indicated by the representation 
that he was formed last of all creatures, and in the 
visible likeness of God. For ages, this simple view 
of creation satisfied the wants of man, and formed a 
sufficient basis of theological teaching, and if modern 
research now shows it to be physically untenable, our 
respect for the narrative which has played so important 
a part in the (julture of our race need be in nowise 
diminished. No one contends that it can be used as 
a basis of astronomical or geological teaching, and 
those who profess to see in it an accordance with facts, 
only do this suh moclo, and by processes which despoil 
it of its consistency and grandeur, both which may 
be preserved if we recognise in it, not an authentic 
utterance of Divine knowledge, but a human utterance, 
which it has pleased Providence to use in a special 
way for the education of mankind. 

IN ENGLAND, 1688-1750. 

THE tliirty years of peace wliicli succeeded the 
Peace of Utrecht (1714), 'was the most prosperous 
season that England had ever experienced ; and the 
progression, though slow, being uniform, the reign of 
George II. might not disadvantageouslj be compared 
for the real happiness of the community with that 
more brilliant, but uncertain and oscillatory condition 
which has ensued. A labourer's wages have never for 
many ages commanded so large a portion of sub- 
sistence as in this part of the 18th century.' (Hallam, 
Const. Hist. ii. 464.) 

This is the aspect which that period of history 
wears to the political philosopher. The historian of 
/ moral and religious progress, on the other hand, is 
/ under the necessity of depicting the same period as 
one of decay of religion, licentiousness of morals, pub- 
lic corruption, profaneness of language — a day of 
' rebuke and blasphemy.' Even those who look with 
suspicion on the contemporary complaints from the 
Jacobite clergy of ' decay of religion ' will not hesitate 
to say that it was an age destitute of depth or earnest- 
ness ; an age whose poetry was without romance, 
whose philosophy was without insight, and whose 
public men were without character ; an age of ' liglit 
without love,' whose ' verj^ merits were of the earth, 
earthy.' In this estimate the followers of Mill and 
Carlyle will agree with those of Dr. Newman. 

Tendencies of Religious Thought in England. 255 

The Stoical moralists of the second century who 
witnessed a similar coincidence of moral degradation 
and material welfare, had no difficulty in connecting 
tliem too-ether as effect with cause. ' Bona rerum 
secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia.' (Seneca, 
ad Lucil. 66.) But the famous theory which satisfied 
the political philosophers of antiquity, viz., that the 
degeneracy of nations is due to the inroads of luxury, 
is laughed to scorn by modern economists. It is at 
any rate a theory which can hardly be adopted by 
those who pour unmeasured contempt on the i8th, by 
way of contrast with the revival of higher principles 
by the 19th century. It is especially since the High 
Church movement commenced that the theology of 
the 1 8th century has become a byeword. The genuine 
Anglican omits that period from the history of the ^ 
Church altoGrether. In constructinir his Catena Patriim 
lie closes his list with Waterland or Brett, and leaps 
at once to 1833, when the Tracts for the Times com- 
menced — as Charles II. dated his reign from his 
father's death. Such a legal fiction may be harmless 
or useful for purjDoses of mere form, but the facts of 
history cannot be disposed of by forgetting them. 
Both the Church and the world of to-day are what 
they are as the result of the whole of their antecedents. 
The history of a party may be written on the theory 
of periodical occultation ; but he who wishes to trace the 
descent of religious thought, and the practical working 
oftlie relii^ious ideas, must follow these throu"-hall the 
phases they have actually assumed. We have not yet 
learnt, in this country, to write our ecclesiastical history 
on any better footing than that of praising up the party, 
in or out of the Church, to which we happen to belong. 
Still further are we from any attempt to apply the 
laws of thought, and of the succession of opinion, to 
the course of English theology. The recognition of 
the fact, that the view of the eternal verities of religion 
which prevails in any given age is in part determined 

256 Tendencies of Heligious ThoiigM in Unyland. 

by tlie view taken in tlie age Avliicli preceded it, is 
incompatible with the hypothesis generally prevalent 
among us as to the mode in which we form our notions 
of religious truth. Upon none of the prevailing 
theories as to this mode is a deductive history of 
theology possible, i. The Catholic theory, which is 
really that of Uoman-Catholics, and professedly that 
of Anglo-Catholics, withdraws Christianity alto- 
gether from human experience and the operation of 
the ordinary laws of thought. 2. The Protestant 
theory of free inquiry, which supposes that each mind 
takes a survey of the evidence, and strikes the balance 
of probability according to the best of its judgment — 
this theory defers indeed to the abstract laws of logic, 
but overlooks the influences of education. If, without 
hypothesis, we are content to observe facts, we shall 
find that we cannot decline to study the opinions of 
any age only because they are not our own opinions. 
There is a law of continuity in the progress of theology 
which, whatever we may wish, is never broken off. 
In tracing the filiation of consecutive systems, we 
cannot aftbrd to overlook any link in the chain, any 
age, except one in which religious opinion did not 
exist. Certainly we, in this our time, if we would 
understand our own position in the Church, and that 
of the Church in the age, if we would hold any clue 
through the maze of religious pretension which sur- 
rounds us, cannot neglect those immediate agencies in 
the production of the present, which had their origin 
towards the beginning of the i8th century. 

Of these agencies there are three, the present in- 
fluence of which cannot escape the most inattentive. 
I. The formation and gradual growth of that compro- 
A mise between Church and State, which is called Tolera- 
tion, and which, believed by man}'' to be a principle, is 
a mere arrangement between two principles. But such 
as it is, it is part of our heritage from the last age, 
and is the foundation, if foundation it can be called, 

i688— 1750. 257 

upon which we still continue to build, as in the 
late act for the admission of Jews to Parliament. 
2. The great rekindling of the religious consciousness 
of the people which, without the Established Church, 
became Methodism, and within its pale has obtained 
the name of the Evangelical movement. However 
decayed may be the Evangelical party as a party, it 
cannot be denied that its influence, both on our reli- 
gious ideas, and on our church life, has penetrated far 
beyond those party limits. 3. The growth and gradual 
diffusion through all religious thinking of the supre- 
macy of reason. This, which is rather a principle, or 
a mode of thinking, than a doctrine, may be properly 
enough called Rationalism. This term is used in this 
country with so much laxity that it is impossible to 
define the sense in which it is generally intended. 
It is often taken to mean a system opposed to revealed 
religion, and imported into this country from Ger- 
many at the beginning of the present century. A 
person, however, who surveys the course of English 
theology during the eighteenth century will have no 
difficulty in recognising, that throughout all discussions, 
underneath all controversies, and common to all par- 
ties, lies the assumption of the supremacy of reason 
in matters of religion. The Kantian philosophy did 
but bring forward into light, and give scientific form 
and a recognised position to, a principle which had 
long unconsciously guided all treatment of religious 
topics both in Germany and in England. Eationalism 
was not an anti-Christian sect outside tTie Church 
making war against religion. It was a habit of 
thought ruling all minds, under the conditions of 
which all alike tried to make good the peculiar 
opinions they might happen to cherish. The Church- 
man differed from the Socinian, and the Socinian from 
the Deist, as to the number of articles in his creed ; 
but all alike consented to test their belief by the ra- 
tional evidence for it. Whether given doctrines or 

25S Tendencies of Beligious Tlioiigld in England, 

miracles were conformable to reason or not was dis- 
puted between the defence and the assault ; but that 
all doctrines were to stand or fall by that criterion 
was not questioned. The principles and the priority 

\ / of natural religion formed the common hypothesis on 
the ground of which the disputants argued wlietheT 
,. anything, and what, had been subsequently commu- 
' nicated to man in a supernatural way. The line 
between those who believed much and those who 
believed little cannot be sharply drawn. Some of the 
so-called Deists were, in fact, Socinians ; as Toland, 
who expressly admits all those parts of the New 
Testament revelation which are, or seem to him, 
comprehensible by reason. {Christianity not Myste- 
rious?^ Nor is there any ground for thinking that 
Toland was insincere in his profession of rational 
Christianity, as was insinuated by his opponents — -e.g. 
Leland. {View of the Deistical Writers, vol. i. p. 49.) 
A more candid adversary, Leibnitz, who knew Toland 
personally, is ' glad to believe that the design of this 
author, a man of no common ability, and as I think, 
a well-disposed person, was to withdraw men from 
:jf«peculative theology to the practice of its precepts.' 
{Annotatiuncula subitanecB.) Hardly one here and 
there, as Hume, professed Eationalism in the extent 
of Atheism ; the great majority of writers were 

V / employed in constructing a via media between Atheism 
and Athanasianism, while the most orthodox were 
diligently ' hewing and chiselling Christianity into an 
intelligible human system, which they theii represented, 
as thus mutilated, as affording a remarkable evidence, 
of the truth of the Bible.' {Tracts for the Itvies, 
vol. ii. No. 73.) The title of Locke's treatise, The 

j Beasonahleness of Christianity, may be said to have 

J been the solitary thesis of Christian theology in Eng- 
land for great part of a century. 

If we are to put chronological limits to this system 
of religious opinion in England, we might; for the 

i688— 1750. 259 

sake of a convenient landmark, say tliat it came in 
with the Revolution of 1688, and began to decline in 
vigour with the reaction against the Reform movement 
about 1830. Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity , / 
would thus open, and the commencement of the Tracts 
Jor the Times mark the fall of Rationalism. Not that 
chronology can ever be exactly applied to the mutations 
of opinion. For there were Rationalists before Locke, 
e.^g. Hales of Eton, and other Arminians, nor has the 
Church of England unanimously adopted the principles 
of the Tracts for the Times. But if we were to follow 
up Cave's nomenclature, the appellation Secidtim Ba- 
tionalisticicm might be affixed to the eighteenth century 
with greater precision than many of his names apply 
to the previous centuries. For it was not merely that 
Rationalism then obtruded itself as a heresy, or ob- 
tained a footing of toleration within the Church, but 
the rationalizing method possessed itself absolutely of 
the whole field of theology. Withjiome trifling ex- 
ceptions, the whole of religious literature was drawn \/ 
in to the endeavour to ' prove the truth' of Christianity. 
The essay and the sermon, the learned treatise and 
the philosophical disquisition, Addison the polite 
writer, and Bentley the classical philologian (Addison : 
Evidences of the Christian Religion, a posthumous pub- 
lication. Bentley : Eight Sermons at Boyle s Lecture, 
1692), the astronomer Newton {Four Letters, Sj'c, 
Lond. 1756), no less than the theologians by profession, 
were all engaged upon the same task. To one book 
of A. Collins, A Discourse on the Grounds and Beasons 
of the Christian Beligion, Lond. 1724, are counted no 
less than thirty-five answers. Dogmatic theology had 
ceased to exist ; the exhibition of religious truth for ^ 
practical purposes was confined to a few obscure ^ 
writers. Every one who had anything to say on 
sacred subjects drilled it into an array of argument 
against a supposed objector. Christianity appeared 
made for nothing else bat to be ' proved ;' what use to 

s 3 

260 Tetidencics of Relif/ious Thought in England, 

make of it when it was proved was not much thouglit 

about. Reason was at first offered as the basis of 

.^' \/ faith, but gradually became its substitute. The mind 

never advanced as far as the stage of belief, for it was 

unceasingly engaged in reasoning up to it. The only 

quality in Scripture which was dwelt upon was its 

V ' credibility.' Even the ' Evangelical' school, which 

had its origin in a reaction against the dominant Ea- 

tionalism, and began in endeavours to kindle religious 

v^o^** feeling, was obliged to succumb at last. It, too, drew 

^l^\ out its rational ' scheme of Christianity,' in which the 

^ atonement was made the central point of a system, 

and the death of Christ was accounted for as necessary 

to satisfy the Divine Justice. 

This whole rationalist age must again be subdi- 
^ , vided into two periods, the theology of which, though 
belonging to the common type, has distinct specific 
characters. These periods are of nearly equal length, 
and we may conveniently take the middle year of the 
century, 1750, as our terminus of division. Though 
both periods were engaged upon the proof of Christi- 
^ anity, the distinction between them is that the first 

Y'^^ period was chiefly devoted to the internal, the second 
^if ^ y i'O the external, attestations. In the first period the 
'■^ main endeavour was to show that there v/as nothing 

in the contents of the revelation which was not agree- 
able to reason. In the second, from 1750 onwards, 
the controversy was narrowed to what are usually 
called the ' Evidences,' or the historical proof of the 
^ genuineness and authenticity of the Christian records. 
Erom this distinction of topic arises an important 
difference of value between the theological produce 
of the two periods. A great injustice is done to the 
i8tli century, when its whole speculative product is 
set down under the description of that Old Bailey 
theology in which, to use Johnson's illustration, the 
Apostles are being tried once a week for the capital 
crime of forgery. This evidential school — the school 

^ ^*4^ 1688— 1750. 261 

of Lardner, Paley, and Wliately — belongs strictly to 
the latter half only of the period now under con- 
sideration. This school, which treated the exterior 
evidence, was the natural sequel and supplement of 
that which had preceded it, which dealt with the in- 
trinsic credibility of the Christian revelation. This 
historical succession of the schools is the logical order 
of the argument. For when we have first shown that 
the facts of Christianity are not incredible, the whole ^ 
burden of proof is shifted to the evidence that the 
facts did really occur. Neither branch of the argu- 
ment can claim to be religious instruction at all, but 
the former does incidentally enter upon the substance 
of the Gospel. It may be philosophy rather than 
theology, but it raises in its course some of the most 
momentous problems which can engage the human 
mind. On the other hand, a mind which occupies 
itself with the ' external evidences' knows nothing of t" 
the spiritual intuition, of which it renounces at once 
the difficulties and the consolations. The supply of 
evidences in what for the sake of a name may be called 
the Georgian period (i 750-1830), was not occasioned 
by any demands of controversy. The attacks through 
the press were nearly at an end ; the Deists had ceased 
to be. The clergy continued to manufacture evidence 
as an ingenious exercise, a literature which was avow- 
edly professional, a study which might seem theology 
without being it, which could awaken none of the 
scepticism then dormant beneath the surface of society. 
Evidences are not edged tools ; they stir no feeling; ^\ 
they were the proper theology of an age, whose li- 
terature consisted in writing Latin hexameters. The 
orthodox school no longer dared to scrutinize the con- 
tents of revelation. The preceding period had eli- 
minated the religious experience, the Georgian had 
lost besides, the power of using the speculative rea- 

The historical investigation, indeed, of the OH^ines 

262 Tendencies of Religious Thovght in England, 

of Cliristianity is a study scarcely second in importance 
to a philosophical arrangement of its doctrines. But 
for a genuine inquiry of this nature the English writers 
of the period had neither the taste nor the knowledge. 
Gibbon alone approached the true difficulties, but met 
only with opponents ' victory over whom was a suffi- 
cient humiliation.' {Atdobiographi/.) No Englishman 
will refuse to join with Coleridge in 'the admiration' 
he expresses ' for the head and heart ' of Paley, ' the 
incomparable grace, propriety, and persuasive lacility 
of his writings.' {Aids to Bejfection, p. 401.) But 
Paley had unfortunately dedicated his powers to a 
factitious thesis ; his demonstration, however perfect, 
is in unreal matter. The case, as the apologists of 
that day stated it, is wholly conventional. The 
breadth of their assumptions is out of all proportion 
to the narrow dimensions of the point they succeed in 
proving. Of an honest critical inquiry into the origin 
and composition of the canonical writings there is but 
"f. one trace, Herbert Marsh's Lectures at Cambridge, and 
that was suggested from a foreign source, and died 
away without exciting imitators. That investigation, 
introduced by a bishop and professor of divinity, has 
scarcely yet obtained a footing in the English Church. 
But it is excluded, not from a conviction of its barren- 
ness, but from a fear that it might prove too fertile in 
results. This unwholesome state of theological feeling 
among us, is perhaps traceable in part to the falsetto 
of the evidential method of the last generation. We 
cannot justify, but we may perhaps make our predeces- 
sors bear part of the blame of, that inconsistency, which 
while it professes that its religious belief rests on his- 
torical evidence, refuses to allow that evidence to be 
freely examined in open court. 

It seems, indeed, a singular infelicity that the con- 

\j struction of the historical proof should have been the 

^ task which the course of events allotted to the latter 

'i half of the 18th century. The critical knowledge oi 

i688— 1750. 2C3 

antiquity had disappeared from tlie Universities. The 
past, discredited by a false conservatism, was regarded / 
with aversion, and the minds of men directed habitually 
to the future, some with fear, others with hope. ' The 
disrespect in which history was held by the French 
jjJdlosojjJies is notorious ] one of the soberest of them, ^ 
D'Alembert, we believe, was the author of the wish ./ 
that all record of past events could be blotted 
out.' (Mill, Disseiiations, vol. i. p. 426.) The same 
sentiment was prevalent, though not in the same 
degree, in this country. Hume, writing to an English- 
man in 1756, speaks of 'your countrymen' as 'given 
over to barbarous and absurd faction,' Of his own 
history the publisher, Millar, told him he had only 
sold forty-five copies in a twelvemonth. [Mi/ Oioii 
^if^) P- 5-) Warburton had long before complained of 
the Chronicles published by Hearne that ' there is not 
one that is not a disgrace to letters ; most of them are 
so to common sense, and some even to human nature.' 
(Parr's Tracts, 8fc., p. 109.) The oblivion into which 
the remains of Christian antiquity had sunk, till 
disinterred by the Tractarian movement,is well known. 
Having neither the critical tools to work with, nor 
the historical materials to work upon, it is no wonder 
if they failed in their art. Theology had almost died 
out when it received a new impulse and a new direc- 
tion from Coleridge. The evidence-makers ceased from 
their futile labours all at once, as beneath the spell of 
some magician. Englishmen heard with as much 
surprise as if the doctrine was new, that the Christian 
faith, the Athanasian Creed, of which they had come 
to wish that the Church was well rid, was ' the per- 
fection of human intelligence •' that ' the compatibility 
of a document with the conclusions of self-evident 
reason, and with the laws of conscience, is a condition 
a priori of any evidence adequate to the proof of its 
having been revealed by God,' and that this ' is a 
principle clearly laid down by Moses and St. Paul / 

264 Tendencies of Religious Thought in Ent/land, 

lastly, that there are mysteries in Christianity, but 
that these mysteries are reason, reason in its highest 
form of self-affirmation.' {Aids to JReJlection, Pref. 
Lit. Remains, iii. 293.) In this position of Coleridge, 
the rationalist th Oology of England, which was in the 
last stage of dec. j and dotage, seemed to recover a 
second youth, and to revert at once to the point 
from which it had started a century before. 

Should the religious historian then acknowledge 
that the impatient contempt with which 'the last 
century' is now spoken of, is justifiable with respect 
to the later period, with its artificial monotone of proof 
that is no proof, he will by no means allow the same 
of the earlier period 1688 — 1750. The superiority 
which the theological writing of this period has over 
that which succeeded it, is to be referred in part to the 
superiority of the internal, over the external, proof of 
Cliristianity, as an object of thought. 

Both methods alike, as methods of argumentative 
proof, place the mind in an unfavourable attitude for 
the consideration of religious truth. It is like re- 
moving ourselves for the purpose of examining an 
object to the furthest point from which the object is 
visible. Neither the external nor the internal evidences 
are properly theology at all. Theology is — Jst, and 
primaril}^ the contemplative, speculative habit, by 
means of which the mind places itself already in 
another world than this ; a habit begun here, to be 
raised to perfect vision hereafter. 2ndly, and in an 
inferior degree, it is ethical and regulative of our con- 
duct as men, in those relations which are temporal and 
transitory. Argumentative proof that such knowledge 
is possible can never be substituted for the knowledge 
without detriment to the mental habit. What is true 
of an individual is true of an age. When an age is 
found occupied in proving its creed, this is but a token 
that the age has ceased to have a proper belief in it. 
JSTevertheless, there is a difference in this respect be- 

1688—1750. 265 

tween the sources from which proof may be fetched. 
Wliere it is busied in estabhshing the ' genuineness ^- 

and authenticity ' of the books of Scripture, neglecting '^''*' 
its rehgious lessons, and drawing out instead ' the un- 
designed coincidences,' Eationalism is seen in its 
dullest and least spiritual form. A¥hen, on the other 
hand, the contents of the Revelation are being freely 
examined, and reason, as it is called, but really the 
philosophy in vogue, is being applied to determine 
whether the voice be the voice of God or not, the rea- 
soner is indeed approaching his subject from a false 
point of view, but he is still engaged with the eternal 
verities. The reason has prescribed itself an impossi- 
ble task when it has undertaken to prove, instead of 
evolve them ; to argue instead of appropriate them. 
But anyhow, it is handling them ; and by the contact 
is raised in some measure to the ' height of that great 

This acknowledgment seems due to the period now 
referred to. It is, perhaps, rather thinking of its 
pulpit eloquence than its controversies, that Professor 
Eraser does not hesitate to call this ' the golden age 
of English theology.' {Essays in Pkiloso^jliy, p. 205.) 
Such language, as applied to our great preachers, was 
once a matter of course, but would now hardly be used 
by any Anglican, and has to be sought for in the 
mouth of members of another communion. The 
names which once commanded universal homage 
among us — the Souths, Barrows, Tillotsons, Sherlocks, 
— excite, perhaps, only a smile of pity. Literary 
taste is proverbially inconstant ; but theological is still 
more so, for here we have no rule or chart to guide 
us but the taste of our age. Bossuet, Bourduloue, 
and Massillon have survived a dozen political revolu- 
tions. We have no classical theology, though we 
have not had a political revolution since 1660. For 
in this subject matter the most of Englishmen have 
no other standard of merit than the prejudices of sect. 

266 Tendencies of Religious Thouglit in England. 

Eminence only marks out a great man for more cordial 
hatred ; every flippant High Church reviewer has 
learnt to fling at Locke, the father of English Ea- 
tionalism, and the greatest name among its worthies. 
Others are, perhaps, only less disliked because less 
known ; qui na pas de lecteurs, na pas d'adversaires.' 
The principal writers in the Deistical Controversy, on 
either side of it, have expiated the attention they once 
engrossed by as universal an oblivion. 

The Deijtical_Controyersy, the all-absorbing topic 
of religious writers and preachers during the whole of 
this first period, has pretty well-defined limits. Stil- 
lingfleet, who died Bishop of Worcester, in the last 
year (1699) of the seventeenth century, marks the 
transition from the old to the new argument. In the 
six folios of Stillingfleet's works may be found the 
latest echoes of the Romanist Controversy, and the 
first declaration of w^ar against Locke. The Deistical 
Controversy attained its greatest intensit}' in the 
twenties (1720-1740), after the subsidence of the Ban- 
gorian controversy, which for a time had diverted 
attention to itself, and it gradually died out towards 
the middle of the century. The decay of interest in 
the topic is sufiiciently marked by the fact that the 
opinions of Hume failed to stimulate curiosity or an- 
tagonism. His Treatise of Hunum Nature (1739) 'fell 
dead-born from the press,' and the only one of his 
philosophical writings w^hich was received with favour 
on its first appearance was one On the new topic — 
Political Bisourses (1752). Of this he says ' it was the 
only work of mine which was successful on the first 
publication, being well received both abroad and at 
home.' {Mi/ Own Life.) Bolingbroke, who died in 
1751, was the last of the professed Deists. When 
his works were brought out by his executor. Mallet, 
in 1754, the interest in them was already gone ; they 
found the public cold or indisposed. ' It was a rusty 
blunderbuss, which he need not have been afraid to 

1688—1750. 2G7 

have discharged himself, instead of leaving half a- 
crown to a Scotchman to let it off after his death.' 
{Bosicell, p. 88.) To talk Deism had ceased to be 
fashionable as soon as it ceased to attract attention. 

The r_atipnaUsm, which is the common character of . / 
all the writers of this time, is a method rather than a ^ 
doctrine ; an unconscious assumption rather than a 
piinciple from which they reason. They would, how- 
ever, all have consented in statements such as the fol- 
lowing : 

Bp. Gibson, Second Pastoral Letter, 1 730. * Those 
among us who have laboured of late years to set 
up reason against revelation would make it pass for 
an established truth, that if you will embrace re- 
velation you must of course quit your reason, which 
if it were true, would doubtless be a strong prejudice 
against revelation. But so far is this from being true, / 
tliat it is universallij achiowledged that revelation itself 
is to stand or fall hij the test of reason, or, in other words, 
according as reason finds the evidences of its coming 
from God to be or not to be suflB.cient and conclusive, 
and the matter of it to contradict or not contradict the 
natural notions which reason gives us of the being and 
attributes of God.' 

Prideaux (Humphrey, Dean of Norwich), Letter to 
the Deists, 1748. ' Let what is written in all the 
books of the N. T. be tried by that which is the touch- 
stone of all religions, I mean that religion of nature 
and reason which God has written in the hearts of 
every one of us from the first creation ; and if it varies 
from it in any one particular, if it prescribes any one 
thing which may in the minutest circumstances thereof 
be contrary to its righteousness, I will then acknow- 
ledge this to be an argument against us, strong enough 
to overthrow the whole cause, and make all things else 
that can be said for it totally ineffectual for its support.' 

^Tillotson (Archbishop of Canterbury), Sermons, vol. 
iii. p. 485. ' All our reasonings about revelation are 

268 Tendencies of Iteligious TJiougJit in England, 

necessarily gathered by our natural notions about 
religion, and therefore he who sincerely desires to do 
the will of God is not apt to be imposed on by vain 
pretences of divine revelation ; but if any doctrine be 
proposed to him which is pretended to come from God, 
he measures it by those sure and steady notions which 
he has of the divine nature and perfections ; he will 
consider the nature and tendency of it, or whether it 
be a doctrine according to godhness, such as is agree- 
able to the divine nature and perfections, and tends to 
make us like unto God ; if it be not, though an angel 
should bring it, he would not receive it.' 

Eogers (John, D.D.)j Sermons at Bogle's Lecture, 
^727, p. 59- 'Our religion desires no other favour 
than a sober and dispassionate examination. It sub- 
mits its grounds and reasons to an unprejudiced trial, 
and hopes to approve itself to the conviction of any 
equitable enquirer.* 

Butler (Jos., Bp. of Durham), Analogy, 8fc., pt. 2,ch. 1. 
.. ' Indeed, if in revelation there be found any passageSj 
^ / the seeming meaning of which is contrary to natural 
^ religion, we may most certainly conclude such seeming 
meaning not to be the real one.' Ibid., ch. 8 : 'I 
have argued upon the principles of the fatalists, which 
I do not believe ; and have omitted a thing of the ut- 
most importance which I do believe : the moral fitness 
and unfitness of actions, prior to all will whatever, 
i which I apprehend as certainly to determine the divine 
M conduct, as speculative truth and falsehood necessarily 
determine the divine judgment.' 

~~Tb the same effect the leading preacher among 
the Dissenters, James Foster, Truth and ExceU 
lencg of the Christian Bev elation, 1731. ' The fa- 
culty of reason which God hath implanted in man- 
kind, however it may have been abused and neg- 
lected in times past, will, whenever they begin to 
exercise it aright, enable them to judge of all these 
things. As by means of this they were capable of 

1668—1750. 2C9 

discovering at first the being and perfections of God, 
and tliat lie governs the world with absolute wisdom, 
equity, and goodness, and what those duties are which 
they owe to him and to one another, they must be as 
capable, if they will divest themselves of prejudice, and 
reason impartially, of rectifying any mistakes they may 
have fallen into about these important points. It 
matters not whether they have hitherto thought right 
or wrong, nor indeed whether they have thought at 
all ; let them but begin to consider seriously and 
examine carefully and impartially, and they must be 
able to find out all those truths which as reasonable 
creatures they are capable of knowing, and which affect 
their duty and happiness.' 

Finally, Warburton, displaying at once his disdain 
and his ignorance of catholic theology, affirms on his 
own authority, Works, iii. p. 620, that 'the image of God 
in which man was at first created, lay in the faculty of 
reason only.' 

But it is needless to multiply quotations. The re- 
ceived theology of the day taught on this point the 
doctrine of Locke, as clearly stated by himself. {Essay^ 
fi"." iv. ch; 19, f 4.) * Eeason is natural revelation, 
whereby the eternal Father of light and fountain of 
all knowledge communicates to mankind that portion 
of truth which he has laid within the reach of their / 
nafural faculties ; revelation is natural reason enlarged ^ 
\)^ a new set of discoveries communicated by God im- 
mediately, which reason vouches the truth of, by the 
testimony and proofs it gives, that they come from 
God. So that he that takes away reason to make way 
for revelation, puts out the light of both, and does 
inuclPvvhat the same as if he would persuade a man to 
put out his eyes the better to receive the remote light 
of an invisible star by a telescope.' 

Ac,CDrding to this assumption, a man's religious be- ,• 
1^ is a result which issues at the end of an intellec-^ ^ 
tual"process. In arranging the steps of this process, . / 

270 Tendencies of Religious TJtou(/Jit in England, 

, ,thej conceived natural religion to form the first stage 

'">^'of tlie journey. That stage theologians of all shac&s 

and parties travelled in company. It was only v^^hen 

they had reached the end of it that the Deists and the 

Christian apologists parted. The former found that 

. the light of reason which had guided them so far indi- 

/' cated no road beyond. The Christian writers declared 

that the same natural powers enabled them to reco- 

i' , gnise the truth of revealed religion. The sufficienc}^ of 

;' natural religion tlms became the turning point of the 

dispute. The natural law of right and duty, argued 

j the Deists, is so absolutely perfect that God could not 
"^ add anything to it. It is commensurate with all the 
real relations in which man stands. To suppose that 
God has created artificial relations, and laid upon man 
positive precepts, is to take away the very notion of 
morality. The moral law is nothing but the condi- 
tions of our actual being, apparent alike to those of 
the meanest and of the highest capacity. It is in- 
consistent with this to suppose that God has gone 
on to enact arbitrary statutes, and to declare them to 
man in an obscure and uncertain light. This was 
the ground taken by the great champion of Deism — 
Tindal, and expressed in the title of the treatise 
which he published in 1732, when upwards of seventy, 
CliristianHy as old as ^TJie' Creation : or, the Gospel a 
ITejniUication of the Beligion of Nature, This was the 
point which the Christian defenders laboured most, to 
.^ construct the bridge which should unite the..revealed 
to the natural. They never demur to making the Na- 
tural the basis on which the Christian rests ; to consi- 
dering the natural knowledge of God as the starting 
point both of the individual mind and of the human 
race. This assumption is necessary to their scheme, 
in which revelation is an argument addressed to the 
reason. Christianity is a resume of the knowledge 
of God already attained by reason, and a disclosure of 
•s^^ further truths. These further truths could not have 

i688— 1750. 271 

been thought out by reason ; but when divinely com- 
municated, they approve themselves to the same reason 
which has ah'eady put us in possession of so much. 
The new truths are not of another order of ideas, for 
' Christianity is a particular scheme under the general 
plan of Providence ' {Analoc/y, pt. 2, ch. 4,) and the 
whole scheme is of a piece and uniform. ' If the dis- 
pensation be indeed from Grod, all the parts of it will 
be seen to be the correspondent members of one entire 
whole, which orderly disposition of things essential, to 
a religious sj^stem will assure us of the true theory of 
the Christian faith.' (Warburton, Bivine Legation, ^'c, 
B. ix. Introd. JForks, vol. iii. p. 600.) 'Hp>v these 
relations are made known, whether by reason or re- . , 
vglatioh7 makes no alteration in the case, because tlie 1 / 
duties arise out of the relations themselves, not out 
of the manner in which we are informed of them.' 
{Ancdogy, pt. 2, ch. i.) 'Those very articles of be- 
lief and duties of obedience, which were formerly na- 
tural with respect to their manner of promulgation, 
are now in the declaration of them also supernatm-al.' 
{Ferguson, Reasoti in Beligion, 1675, p. 29.) The re- 
lations to the Redeemer and the Sanctifier are not 
artificial, but as real as those to the Maker and Pre- 
server, and the obligations arising out of the one set 
of relations as natural as those arising out of the 

The deference paid to natural religion is further 
seen in the attempts to establish ajjriori the necessity 
of a revelation. To make this out it was requisite 
tb show that the knowledge w4th which reason could 
supply us was inadequate to be the guide of life, yet 
reason must not be too much depressed, inasmuch as ' 
it was needed for the proof of Chi'istianity. On the 
one hand, the moral state of the heathen world prior 
to the preaching of Cln'istianity, and of Pagan and 
■ savage tribes in Africa and America now, the super- 
stitions of the most civilized nations of antiquity, the 


272 Tendencies of Heligious Thought in England, 

intellectual follies of the wisest philosophers, are ex- 
hibited in great detail. The usual arguments of scep- 
ticism on the conscious weakness of reason are brought 
forward, but not pushed very far. Reason is to be 
humiliated so far as that supernatural light shall be 

V/ seen to be necessary, but it must retain its competence 

' to Judge of the evidence of the supernatural message. 
/ IfTatural relitj-ion is insufiicient as a lisi-ht and a motive 
/ to sTiow us our way, and to mahe us wal^ in it ; it is 

\J sufficient as a light and a motive to lead us to reve- 
lation, and to induce us to embrace it. How much 
of religious truth was contained in natural knowledge, 
or how much was due to supernatural communication, 
was v€ry variously estimated. Locke, especially, had 
warned against our liability to attribute to reason 

\ ; much of moral truth that had in fact been derived 
' from revelation. But the uncertainty of the demar- 
cation between the two is only additional proof of the 
identity of the scheme which they disclose between 
them. The whole of God's government and dealings 
with man form one wide-spread and consistent scheme, 
of which natural reason apprehends a part, and of 
which Christianity was the manifestation of a further 
part. Consistently herewith they treated natural re- 
ligion, not as an historical dispensation, but as an ab- 
stract demonstration. There never was a timie when 
mankind had realized or established an actual system 
of natural religion, but it lies always potentially in 
his reason. It held the same place as the social con- 
tract in political history. The ' original contract' had 
never had historical existence, but it was a hypothesis 
necessary to explain the existing fact of society. No 
society had, in fact, arisen on that basis, yet it is the 
theoretical basis on which all society can be shown to 
rest. So there was no time or country where the reli- 
gion of nature had been fully known, j^et the natural 
knowledge of God is the only foundation in the human 
mind on which can be built a rational Christianit}-. 

1688—1750. 273 

Tliongli not an original condition of any part ot 
mankind, it is an ever-originating condition of every 
human mind, as soon as it begins to reason on the 
facts of rehgion, rendering all the moral phenomena 
available for the construction of a scientific theory of 

In accordance with this view they interpreted the pas- 
sages in St, Paul which speak of the religion of the hea- 
then ; e.(j., Eom. ii. 14. Since the time of Augustine {De 
Sjjir. et Lit. § 27) the orthodox interpretation had 
applied this verse, either to the Grentile converts, or to 
the favoured few among the heathen who had extra- 
ordinary divine assistance. The Protestant expositors, 
to whom the words ' do by nature the things contained 
in the law,' could never bear their literal force, sedu- 
lously preserved the Augustinian explanation. Even 
the Pelagian Jeremy Taylor is obliged to gloss the 
phrase ' by nature,' thus : ' By fears and secret 
opinions which the Spirit of God who is never wanting 
to men in things necessary was pleased to put into the 
hearts of men.' {Duct. Biihit. B. ii. ch. i, § 3.) The 
rationalists, however, find the expression ' by nature,' in 
its literal sense, exactly conformable to their own views 
(Wilkins, Of Nat. Ret. ii. c. 9), and have no difficulty 
even in supposing the acceptableness of these works, 
and the salvability of those who do them. Burnet on 
Art. xviii., in his usual confused style of eclecticism, 
suggests both opinions without seeming to see that 
they are incompatible relics of divergent schools of 

Consequent with such a theory of religion was their 
notion of its practical bearings. Christianity was a 
republication of the moral law — a republication ren- 
dered necessary by the helpless state of moral debase- 
ment into which the world was come by the practice 
of_v:ic(3. The experience of ages had proved that, 
tliough our duty might be discoverable by the light of 
nature, yet yh'tue was not able to maintain itself in " 




274 Tendencies of Beli^ioiis TJiougld in England, 

tli pi wnrlrl -yy-^t honf, additional (Sanctions. The disin- 
terestedness of virtue was here a point much debated. 
Tlie Deists, in general, argued from the notion of 
morality, that so far as any private regard to my own 
interest, whether present or future, influences my 
condact, so far my actions have no moral worth. From 
this they drew the inference that the rewards and 

/punishments of Christianity — these additional sanc- 
tions — could not be a divine ordinance, inasmuch as 
they were subversive of morality. The orthodox 
writers had to maintain the theory of rewards and 
punishments in such a way as not to be inconsistent 
with the theory of the disinterestedness of virtue 
which they had made part of their theology. Even 
here no precise line can be drawn between the Deistical 
and the Christian moralists. For we find Shaftesbury 
placing in a very clear light the mode in which religious 
sanctions do, in fact, as society is constituted, support 
and strengthen virtue in the world, though he does 
not deny that the principle of virtue in the individual 
may suffer from the selfish passion being appealed to 
by the hope of reward or the fear of punishment. 
{Characteristicks, vol ii. p. 66.) But with whatever 
variation in individual disputants, the tone of the dis- 
cussions is unmistakeable. When Collins was asked, 
* Why he was careful to make his servants go to 
Church ? he is said to have answered, ' I do it that 
they may neither rob nor murder me.' This is but 
an exaggerated form of the practical religion of the 
age. Tillotson's Sermon {Works, vol. iii. p. 43) ' On 
the Advantages of Heligion to Societies' is like CoUins's 
\ reply at fuller length. The Deists and their opponents 
\ alike assume that the purpose of the supernatural 
\| interference of the Deity in revelation must liave been 
to secure the good behaviour of man in this world; 
that the future life and our knowledge of it may be a 
means to this great end ; tliat the next world, if it 
exist at all, bears that relation to the present. We 
are chiefly familiar with tli€se views from their having 

1688—1750. 275 

been long the butt of the Evangelical pulpit, a chief ^ 
topic in which was to decry the mere ' legal' preaching 
of a preceding age. To abstain from vice, to cultivate 
virtue, to fill our station in life with propriety, to 
bear the ills of life with resignation, and to use its 
pleasures moderately — these things are indeed not 
little ; perhaps no one can name in his circle of friends 
a man whom he thinks equal to these demands. Yet 
the experience of the last age has shown us unmistake- 
ably that where this is our best ideal of life, whether, 
with the Deists, we establish the obligation of morality 
on ' independent' grounds ; or, with the orthodox, add 
the religious sanction — in Mr. Mill's rather startling 
mode of putting it {Dissertations, vol. ii.p. 436), 'Because 
God is stronger than we, and able to damn us if we 
don't' — it argues a sleek and sordid epicurism, in which 
religion and a good conscience have their place among 
the means by which life is to be made comfortable. 
To accuse the divines of this age of a leaning to 
A.rminianism is quite beside the mark. They did not 
intend to be other than orthodox. They did not 
take the Arminian side rather than the Calvinistic in 
the old conflict or concordat between Faith and Works, 
between Justification and Sanctification. They had 
dropt the terminology, and with it the mode of think- 
ing, which the terms implied. They had adopted the 
language and ideas of the moralists. They spoke not 
of sin, but of vice, and of virtue, not of works. In 
the old Protestant theology actions had only a certain 
exterior relation to the justified man ; ' gute fromme 
Werke machen nimmermehr einen guten frommen 
Mann, sondern ein guter frommer Mann macht gute 
Werke.' {Luther.) Now, our conduct was thought of, 
not as a product or efflux of our character, but as 
regulated by our understanding ; by a perception of 
relations, or a calculation of consequences. This 
intellectual perception of regulative truth is religious 
Faith. Faith is no longer the devout condition of the 

276 Tendencies of Religions TJtoiigltt in England, 

entire inner man. • Its dynamic nature, and interior 
working, are not denied, but tliey are unknown ; and 
religion is made to regulate life from without, through 
the logical proof of the being and attributes of God, 
upon which an obligation to obey him can be raised. 

The preachers of any period are not to be censured 
for adapting their style of address and mode of argu- 
ing to their hearers. They are as necessarily bound 
to the preconceived notions, as to the language, of 
those whom they have to exhort. The pulpit does 
not mould the forms into which religious thought in 
any age runs, it simply accommodates itself to those 
that exist. For this very reason, because they must 
o^follow and cannot lead, sermons are the surest index 
Tof the prevailing religious feeling of their age. When 
we are reminded of the powerful influence of the 
pulpit at the Reformation, in tlie time of the Long 
Parliament, or at the Methodist revival, it must also 
be remembered that these preachers addressed a dif- 
ferent class of society from that for which our classical 
pulpit oratory was written. If it could be said that 
* Sherlock, Hare, and Gibson preach in vain,' it was 
because the populace were gone to hear mad Henley 
on his tub. To charge Tillotson or Foster with not 
moving the masses which Whitefield moved, is to 
charge them with not having preached to another 
congregation than that to which they had to preach. 
Nor did they preach to empty pews, though their 
carefully- written ' discourses' could never produce 
effects such as are recorded of Burnet's extempore 
addresses, when he ' was often interrupted by the deep 
hum of his audience, and when, after preaching out 
the hour-glass, he held it up in his hand, the congre- 
gation clamorously encouraged him to go on till the 
sand had run offence more.' {Macaiday^ vol. ii. p. 177,) 
The dramatic oratory of Whitefield could not have 
sustained its power over the same auditors ; lie had a 
fresh congregation every Sunday. And in the judg- 

i688— 1750. 277 

ment of one quite disposed to do justice to Wliitefield 
there is nothing in his printed sermons. Johnson 
(ap. Boswell) speaking of the comparisons drawn 
between the preaching in the Church and that of 
the Methodists to the disadvantage of the former, 
says, ' I never treated Whitefield's ministry with eon- 
tempt ; I believe he did good. But when familiarity 
and noise claim the praise due to knowledge, art, and 
elegance, we must beat down such pretensions.' It 
is, however, the substance, and not the manner, of the 
classical sermons of the eighteenth century which is 
meant, when they are complained of as cold and barren. 
Prom thi?. accusation they cannot be vindicated. But 
let it be rightly understood that it is a charge not 
against the preachers but against the religious ideas 
of the period. In the pulpit, the speaker has no choice 
but to take his audience as he finds them. He can 
but draw them on to the conclusions already involved 
in their premisses. He cannot supply them with a 
new set of principles, or alter their fixed forms of 
thought. The ideas out of which the Protestant or 
the Puritan movement proceeded were generated else- 
where than in the pulpit. 

The Pationalist preachers of the eighteenth century 
are usually contrasted with the Evangelical pulpit 
which displaced them. Mr. Neale has compared them 
disadvantageously with the medieval preachers in re- 
spect of Scripture knowledge. He selects a sermon 
of the eighteenth and one of the twelfth century ; the 
one by the well-known Evangelical preacher John 
Newton, Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth ; the other by 
Guarric, Abbot of Igniac. ' In Newton's sermon 
we find nine references to the Gospels, two to the 
Ejjistles, nine to the Prophets, one to the Psalms, and 
none to any other part of Scripture, In the sermon 
of Guarric we find seven references to the Gospels^ one 
to the Epistles, twenty-two to the Psalms, nine to the 
Prophets, and eighteen to other parts of Scripture. 

278 Tendencies of Religious TJiougId in England, 

Thus the total number of quotations made by the 
EvangeHcal preacher is twenty-one, by Guarric fifty- 
seven, and this in sermons of about equal length.' 
{MedicBval Preaching, Introd. xxvi.) Mr. Neale has, 
perhaps, not been fortunate in his selection of a sj)eci- 
men sermon. For having the curiosity to apply this 
somewhat childish test to a sermon of John Blair, taken 
at random out of his four volumes, I found the number 
of texts quoted thirty-seven. But, passing this by, 
Mr. Neale misses his inference. He means to show 
how much more Scripture knowledge was possessed 
by the preachers of the ' dark ages.' This is very 
likely, if familiarity with the mere words of the 
Vulgate version be Scripture knowledge. But it is 
not proved by the abstinence of the i8th century 
preacher from the use of Biblical phraseology. The 
fact, so far as it is one, only shows that our divines 
understood Scripture differently, some will say better, 
than the Middle Age ecclesiastics. The latter had, in 
the mystical theology of the Christian Church, a rich 
store of religious sentiment, which it was an exercise 
of their ingenuity to find in the poetical books of the 
Hebrew canon. Great part of this fanciful allegorizing 
is lost, apart from the Vulgate translation. But of 
this the more learned of them were quite aware, and 
on their theory of Scripture interpretation, according 
to which the Church was its guaranteed expositor, the 
verbal meanings of the Latin version were equally the 
inspired sense of the sacred record. It was other- 
wise with the English divine of the i8th century. 
According to the then received view of Scripture, its 
meaning was not assigned by the Church, but its lan- 
guage was interpreted by criticism — i.e., by reason. 
'The aids of history, the ordinary rules of grammar 
and logic, were applied to find out what the sacred 
writers actually said. That was the meaning of 
Scripture, the message supernaturally communicated. 
Where each text of Scripture has but one sense — that 

1688—1750. 279 

sense in wlilcli the writer ])enned it — it can only be 
cited in that sense without doing it violence. This 
was the turn by which Selden so discomfited the 
Puritan divines, who, like the Catholic mystics, made 
Scripture words the vehicle of their own feelings. 
* Perhaps in your little pocket Bibles with gilt leaves 
the translation may be thus, but the Greek or Hebrew 
signifies otherwise.' (Whitelocke, ap. Johnson's Life 
of Selden, p. 303.) If the preacher in the 18th cen- 
tury had allowed himself to make these allusions, 
the taste of his audience would have rejected them. 
He would have weakened his argument instead of 
giving it effect. 

No quality of these ' Discourses ' strikes us more 
now than the good sense which pervades them. They 
are the complete reaction against the Puritan sermon 
of the 17th century. We have nothing far-fetched, 
fanciful, allegoric. The practice of our duty is recom- 
mended to us on the most undeniable grounds of pru- 
dence. Barrow had indulged in ambitious periods, 
and South had been jocular. Neither of these faults 
can be alleg-ed a^rainst the model sermon of the Hano- 
verian period. No topic is produced which does not 
compel our assent as soon as it is understood, and none 
is there which is not understood as soon as uttered. 
It is one man of the world speaking to another. Col- 
lins said of St. Paul, ' that he had a great respect for 
him as both a man of sense and a gentleman.' He 
might have said the same of the best pulpit divines of 
his own time. They bear the closest resemblance to 
each other, because they all use the language of fashion- 
able society, and say exactly the proper thing. 'A per- 
son,' says Waterland, ' must have some knowledge of 
men, besides that of books, to succeed well here ; and 
must have a kind of practical sagacity which nothing 
but the grace of God joined with recollection and wise 
observation can bring, to be able to represent truths to 
the life, or to any considerable degree of advantage.' 


280 Tendencies of ReIi(/ions Thougld in England^ 

This is from Lis recommendatory preface prefixed to 
an edition of Blair's Sermons (1739) ; not the Presby- 
terian Dr. Hugh Blair, but John Blair, the founder 
and first President of a Missionary College in Virginia, 
whose ' Sermons on the Beatitudes ' were among the 
most approved models of the day, and recommended 
by the bishops to their candidates for orders. Dr. 
Hugh Blair's Sermons, which Johnson thought ' ex- 
cellently written, both as to doctrine and language,' 
(ap. Bosivell, p. 528), are in a different taste — that of 
the latter half of the century, when solid and sensible 
reasoning was superseded by polished periods and 
fiowery rhetoric. ' Polished as marble,' says Hugh 
J. Rose, ' but also as lifeless and as cold.' The ser- 
mons which Waterland recommends to young students 
of Divinity comprise Tillotson, Sharp, Calamy, Sprat, 
Blackball, Hoadly, South, Claggett, and Atterbury. 
Of these, ' Sharp's, Calamy's, and Blackhall's are the 
best models for an easy, natural, and familiar way of 
writing. Sprat is fine, florid and elaborate in his style, 
artful in his method, and not so open as the former, 
but harder to be imitated. Hoadly is very exact and 
judicious, and both his sense and style just, close, and 
clear. The others are very sound, clear writers, only 
Scot is too swelling and pompous, and South is some- 
thing too full of wit and satire, and does not always 
observe a decorum in his style.' He advises the stu- 
dent to begin his divinity course with reading sermons, 
because ' they are the easiest, plainest, and most enter- 
taining of any books of divinity ; and might be digested 
into a better body of divinity than any that is yet 
extant.' {Advice to a Yomuj Student, 1730.) 

Not only the pulpit, but the whole theological lite- 
rature of the age, takes the same tone of appeal. Books 
are no longer addressed by the cloistered academic to 
a learnedly educated class, they are written by popular 
divines — ' men of leisure,' Butler calls them — for the 
use of fashionable society. There is an epoch in the 

-I750. 281 

history of letters when readers and writers change 
places ; when it ceases to be the reader's business to 
come to the writer to be instructed, and the writer 
begins to endeavour to engage the attention of the 
reader. The same necessity was now laid upon the 
religious writer. He appeared at the bar of criticism, 
and must gain the wits and the town. At the debate 
between the Deists and the Christian apologists the 
public was umpire. The time was past when Baxter 
' talked about another world like one that had been 
there, and was come as a sort of express from thence 
to make a report concerning it.' (Calamy, Life, i. 220.) 
As the preacher now no longer spake with the autho- 
rity of a heavenly mission, but laid the state of the 
argument before his hearers, so philosophy was no 
longer a self-centered speculation, an oracle of wisdom. 
The divine went out into the streets, with his demon- 
stration of the being and attributes of God printed on 
a broadside ; he solicits your assent in ' the new court- 
jargon.' When Collins visited Lord Barrington at 
Tofts, ' as they were all men of letters, and had a taste 
for Scripture criticism, it is said to have been their 
custom after dinner, to have a Greek Testament laid 
on the table.' {Biog. Brit. Art. 'Barrington.') These 
discussions were not necessarily unprofitable. Lord 
Bolingbroke ' w^as seldom in the company of the 
Countess of Huntingdon without discussing some 
topic beneficial to his eternal interests, and he always 
paid the utmost respect and deference to her lady- 
ship's opinion.' {Memoirs of Countess of Hunt., i. 180.) 
Bishop Butler gives his clergy hints how to conduct 
themselves when * sceptical and profane men bring up 
the subject (religion) at meetings of entertainment, 
and such as are of the freer sort ; innocent ones, I 
mean, otherwise I should not suppose you would be 
present at them.' {Darhani Charge, 1751). Tindal's 
reconversion from Romanism is said to have been, 
brought about by the arguments he heard in the 



282 Tendencies of Beli^ious Thougld in England, 

coffee-houses. This anecdote, given in Curll's catch- 
penny ' Life,' rests, not on that bookseller's authority, 
which is worthless, but on that of the medical man 
who attended him in his last illness. It was the same 
with the controversy on the Trinity, of which Water- 
land says, in 1723, that it was 'spread abroad among 
all ranks and degrees of men, and the Athanasian 
creed become the subject of common and ordinary con- 
versation.' {Critical Hist, of the Atlian. Creed, Introd.) 
The Universities were invaded by the spirit of the age, 
and instead of taking students through a laborious 
course of philosopliy, natural and moral, turned out 
accomplished gentlemen upon ' the classics ' and a 
scantling of logic. Berkeley's ironical portrait of the 
modish philosopher is of date 1732. ' Lysicles smiled, 
and said he believed Euphranor had figured to himself 
philosophers in square caps and long gowns, but thanks 
to these happy times, the reign of pedantry was over. 
Our philosophers are of a very different kind from those 
awkward students who think to come at knowledge 
by poring on dead languages and old authors, or by 
sequestering themselves from the cares of the world 
to meditate in solitude and retirement. They are the 
best bred men of the age, men who know the world, 
men of pleasure, men of fashion, and fine gentlemen. 
EuPH. : I have some small notion of the people you 
mention, but should never have taken them for philo- 
sophers. Cri. : Nor would any one else till of late. 
The world was long under a mistake about the way to 
knowledge, thinking it lay through a tedious course 
of academical education and study. But among the 
discoveries of the present age, one of the principal is 
the finding out that such a method doth rather retard 
and obstruct, than promote knowledge. Lis. : I will 
undertake, a lad of fourteen, bred in the modern way, 
shall make a better figure, and be more considered in 
any drawing-room, or assembly of polite people, than 
one at four-and-twenty, who hath lain by a long time 

i688— 1750. 283 

at school and college. He shall say better things, in 
a better manner, and be more liked by good judges. 
EuPH. : Where doth he pick up this improvement ? 
Cri. : Where our grave ancestors would never have 
looked for it, in a drawing-room, a coffee-house, a 
chocolate-house, at the tavern, or groom-porter's. In 
these and the like fashionable places of resort, it is 
the custom for polite persons to speak freely on all sub- 
jects, religious, moral, or political. So that a young 
gentleman who frequents them is in the way of hear- 
ing many instructive lectures, seasoned with wit and 
raillery, and uttered with spirit. Three or four sen- 
tences, from a man of quality, spoken with a good air, 
make more impression, and convey more knowledge, 
than a dozen dissertations in a dry academical way. 
. . You may now commonly see a young lady, 
or a petit maitre, non-plus a divine or an old-fashioned 
gentleman, who hath read many a Greek and Latin 
author, and spent much time in hard methodical study.' 
{Alciphron, Dial. i. ^ ii.) 

Among a host of mischiefs thus arising, one positive 
good may be signalized. If there must be debate, 
there ought to be fair play ; and of this, publicity is 
the best guarantee. To make the public arbiter in an 
abstract question of metaphysics is doubtless absurd ; 
yet it is at least a safeguard against extravagance and 
metaphysical lunacy. The verdict of public opinion 
on such toj)ics is worthless, but it checks the inevitable 
tendency of closet speculation to become visionary. 
There is but one sort of scepticism that is genuine, 
and deadly in proportion as it is real ; that, namely, 
which is forced upon the mind by its experience of 
the hollowness of mankind ; for ' men may be read, as 
well as books, too much.' That other logical scepti- 
cism which is hatched by over-thinking can be cui'ed 
by an easy remedy ; ceasing to think. 

The objections urged against revelation in the 
course of the Deistical controversy were no chima;ras 

284 Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 

of a sickly brain, but solid charges; tbe points brought 
into public discussion were the points at which the 
revealed system itself impinges on human reason. 
No time can lessen whatever force there may be in 
the objection against a miracle ; it is felt as strongly 
in one century as in another. The debate was not 
frivolous ; the objections were worth answering, be- 

%; cause they were not pitched metaphysically high. To 
a platonizing divine they look trivial ; picked up in 
the street. So Origen naturally thought ' that a faith 
which could be shaken by such objections as those of 
Celsus was not worth much.' {Cont. Cels., Pref § 4.) 
Just such were the objections of the Deists ; such as 
come spontaneously into the thoughts of practical men, 
who never think systematically, but who are not to be 
imposed upon by fancies. Persons sneer at the ' shal- 
low Deism ' of the last century ; and it is customary 
to reply that the antagonist orthodoxy was at least as 
shallow. The truth is, the ' shallowness' imputed be- 
longs to the mental sphere into which the debate was 
for the time transported. The philosophy of the age 
was not above its mission. ' Philosophy,' thought 
Thomas Eeid, in 1764, 'has no other root but the 
principles of common sense ; it grows out of them, it 
draws its nourishment from them ; severed from this 
root, its honours wither, its sap is dried up, it dies 
and rots.' {Inquiry, ^'c., Intr. § 4.) We, in the pre- 
sent generation, have seen the great speculative move- 

j ment in Germany die out from this very cause, because 
it became divorced from the facts on which it specu- 
lated. Shut up in the Universities, it turned inwards 
on itself, and preyed on its own vitals. It has only 
been neglected by the world, because it first neglected 
the great facts in which the world has, and feels, an 

If ever there was a time when abstract speculation 
was brought down from inaccessible heights and com- 

1^ pelled to be intelligible, it was the period from the 

1688—1750. 2S5 

Revolution to the middle of the last century. Closet 
speculation has been discredited ; the cobwebs of 
scholasticism were exploded ; the age of feverish doubt ^ 
an^ egotistical introspection had not arrived. In that 
age the English higher education acquired its practical 
aim ; an aim in which the development of the under- 
standing, and the acquisition of knowledge are consi- 
dered secondary objects to the formation of a sound 
secular judgment, of the ' scholar and the gentleman' 
of the old race of schoolmasters. Biirke contrasting 
his own times with the preceding age ' considered our 
forefathers as deeper thinkers than ourselves, because 
the}^ set a higher value on good sense than on know- 
ledge in various sciences, and their good sense was 
derived very often from as much study and more 
knowledge, though of another sort.' {Recollections hy 
Samuel Rogers, p. 81.) 

When a dispute is joined, e.g. on the origin and 
composition of the Grospels, it is, from the nature of 
the case, confined to an inner circle of Biblical scholars. 
The mass of the public must wait outside, and receive 
the result on their authority. The religious public 
w^ere very reluctant to resign the verse i John v. 7, 
but they did so at last on the just ground that after a 
philological controversy conducted with open doors, it 
had been decided to be spurious. No serious man 
would consider a popular assembly a proper court to 
decide on the doctrine of transubstantiation, or on the 
Hegelian definition of Grod, though either is easily 
capable of being held up to the ridicule of the half 
educated from the platform or the pulpit. It is other- 
wise with the greater part of the points raised in the 
Deistical controversy. It is not the speculative reason 
of the few, but the natural conscience of the many, "** 
that questions the extirpation of the Canaanites, or 
the eternity of hell- torments. These are points of 
divinity which are at once fundamental and popular. 
Butler, though not approving ' of entering into an 

286 Tendencies of Helif/ious TJiought in England^ 

argumentative defence of religion in common conver- 
sation,' recommends his clergy to do so from the pulpit 
on the ground that, ' such as are capable of seeing the 
force of objections, are also capable of seeing the force 
of the answers which are given to them.' {Durham 
Charge.^ If the philosophic intellect be dissatisfied with 
the answers which the divines of that day gave to the 
difficulties started, let it show how, on the rationalist 
hypothesis, these difficulties are removeable for the 
mass of those who feel them. The transcendental 
reason provides an answer which possibly satisfies 
itself; but to the common reason the answer is more 
perplexing than the difficulty it would clear. 

M. Villemain has remarked in Pascal, 'that fore- 
sight which revealed to him so many objections un- 
known to his generation, and which inspired him with 
the idea of fortifying and intrenching positions which 
were not threatened.' The objections which Pascal is 
engaged with are not only not those of his age, they 
are not such as could ever become general in any age. 
They are those of the higher reason, and the replies 
are from the same inspiration. Pascal's view of 
human depravity seems to the ordinary man but the 
despair and delirium of the self-tormenting ascetic. 
The cynical view of our fallen nature, however, is at 
least a possible view. It is well that it should be ex- 
plored, and it will always have its prophets, Calvin 
or Pochefoucault. But to ordinary men an argu- 
ment in favour of revelation, founded on such an as- 
sumption, will seem to be in contradiction to his daily 
experience. Pascal's Pensees stand alone ; a work of 
individual genius, not belonging to any age. The ce- 
lebrity which the Analogy of Bishop Butler has gained 
is due to the opposite reason. It is no paradox to say 
t]iat the merit of the Analogy lies in its want of origi- 
nality. It came ( i,2,gj^ towards the end of the Deisti- 
cal period. It is the result of twenty years'. stii,dy — 
the very twenty years during which the Deistical no- 

1688—1750. 2S7 

tions formed tlie atmosphere wliicli educated people 
breathed. The objections it meets are not new and 
unseasoned objections, but such as had worn well, and 
had borne the rub of controversy, because they were 
genuine. And it will be equally hard to find in the 
Analof/ij any topic in reply, which had not been sug- 
gestecl in the pamphlets and sermons of the preceding 
half century. Like Aristotle's physical and political 
treatises, it is a resume of the discussions of more than 
one generation. Its admirable arrangement only is 
all its" own. Its closely packed and carefully fitted 
order speaks of many years' contrivance. Its sub- 
stance are the thoughts of a whole age, not barely 
compiled, but each reconsidered and digested. Every 
brick in the building has been rung before it has been 
relaid, and replaced in its true relation to the complex 
and various whole. In more than one passage we see 
that the construction of this fabric of evidence, which 
' consists in a long series of things, one preparatory 
to and confirming another from the beginning of 
the world to the present time,' {Durham Charge) 
was what occupied Butler's attention. ' Compass of 
thought, even amongst persons of the lowest rank* 
(P/r/. to Sermons), is that form of the reflective faculty 
to which he is fond of looking both for good and evil. 
He never will forget that 'justice must be done to 
every part of a subject when we are considering it.' 
{Sermon iv.) Harmony, and law, and order, he will 
suppose even where he does not find them. The ten- 
dency of his reason was that which Bacon indicates ; 
* the spirit of a man being of an equal and uniform 
substance doth usually suppose and feign in nature a 
greater equality and uniformity than is in truth.' 
{Advancement of Learning.) This is, probably, the 
true explanation of the 'obscurity' which persons 
sometimes complain of in Butler's style. The rea- 
son or matter he is producing is palpable and plain 
enough. But he is so solicitous to find its due place 

288 Tendencies of Bellgioiis ThovjjU in Ungland, 

in the tlien stage of the argument, so scrupulous to 
give it its exact weight and no more, so careful in ar- 
ranging its situation relatively to the other members 
of the proof, that a reader who does not bear in mind 
that ' the effect of the wliole' is what the architect is 
preparing, is apt to become embarrassed, and to think 
that obscurity which is really logical precision. The 
generality of men are better qualified for understand- 
ing particulars one by one, than for taking a compre- 
hensive view of the whole. The philosophical breadth 
which we miss in Butler's mode of conceiving is com- 
pensated for by this judicial breadth in his mode of 
arguing, which gives its place to each consideration, 
but regards rather the cumulative force of the whole. 
Many writers before Butler had insisted on this cha- 
racter of the Christian evidences. Dr. Jenkin, Mar- 
garet Professor at Cambridge, whose Beasonableness and 
Ceriainiy of the Christian Religion (17 21) was the ' Paley' 
of divinity students then, says, ' there is an excellency 
in every part of our religion separately considered, but 
the strength and vigour of each part is in the relation 
it has to the rest, and the several parts must be taken 
altogether, if we would have a true knowledge, and 
make a just estimate of the whole. {Beasonableness, 8fc. 
Pt. ii. Pref. 1721.) But Butler does not merely take 
the hint from others. It is so entirely the guiding 
rule of his hand and pen that it would appear to have 
been forced upon him by some peculiar experience of 
his own. It was in society, and not in his study, that 
he had learned the weight of the Deistical arguments. 
At the Queen's philosophical parties, where these to- 
pics were canvassed with earnestness and freedom, he 
must have often felt the impotence of reply in detail, 
and seen, as he says, * how impossible it must be, in a 
cursory conversation, to unite all this into one argu- 
ment, and represent it as it ought.' {Durham Charge.) 
Hence his own labour to work up his materials into 
a connected framework, a methodized encyclopa3dia of 
all the extant topics. 

1688—1750. 289 

Not that lie did not pay attention to the parts. 
Butler's eminence over his contemporary apologists 
is seen in nothing more than in that superior sagacity 
which rejects the use of imj plea that is not entitled 
to consideration singly. In the other evidential books 
of the time we find a miscellaneous crowd of sugges- 
tions of very various value ; never fanciful, but often 
trivial ; undeniable, but weak as proof of the point 
they are brought to prove. Butler seems as if he had 
sifted these books, and retained all that was solid in 
them. If he built with brick, and not with marble, 
it was because he was not thinking of reputation, but 
of utility, and an immediate purpose. Mackintosh 
wished Butler had had the elegance and ornament of 
Berkeley. They would have been sadly out of place. 
' There Avas not a spark of the littleness of literary 
ambition about him. There was a certain naturalness 
in Butler's mind, which took him straight to the 
questions on which men differed around him. Grenerally 
it is safer to prove what no one denies, and easier to 
explain difficulties which no one has ever felt. A 
quiet reputation is best obtained in the literary qua^s- 
tiunculse of important subjects. But a simple and 
straightforward man studies great topics because he 
feels a want of the knowledge which they contain. 
He goes straight to the real doubts and fundamental 
discrepancies, to those on which it is easy to excite 
odium, and difficult to give satisfaction ; he leaves to 
others the amusing skirmishing and superficial literature 
accessory to such studies. Thus there is nothing 
light in Butler, all is grave, serious, and essential ; 
nothing else would be characteristic of him.' (Bagehot, 
Estimates, Sfc, p. 189.) Though he has rifled their 
books he makes no display of reading. In the Analofjy 
he never names the author he is answering. In tne 
Sermons he quotes, directly, only Hobbes, Shaftesbury, 
Wollaston, Eochefoucaulc, and Fenelon. From his 
writings we should infer that his reading was not pro- 


290 Tendencies of Bclif/ious ThoiiglLt in England, 

miscuous, even had he not himself given us to under- 
stand how much opportunity he had of seeing the 
idleness and waste of time occasioned by light reading. 
{Sermons, Pref.) 

This popular appeal to the commpn_reason_of men, 
-^ which is one characteristic of the rationalist period, 
was a first effort of English theology to find a new 
basis for doctrine which should replace those founda- 
tions which had failed it. The Reformation had 
destroyed the authority of the Church upon which 
Eevelation had so long rested. The attempt of the 
Laudian divines to substitute the voice of the national 
Church for that of the Church universal had met with 
only very partial and temporary success. When the 
Eevolution of 1688 introduced the freedom of the press 
and a general toleration, even that artificial authority 
which, by ignoring non-conformity, had produced an 
appearance of unity, and erected a conventional 
standard of truth and falsehood, fell to the ground. 
The old and venerated authority had been broken by 
the Reformation. The new authority of the Anglican 
establishment had existed in theory only, and never in 
fact, and the Revolution had crushed the theory, which 
was now confined to a small band of non-jurors. In 
reaction against Anglican ' authority,' the Puritan 
movement had tended to rest faith and doctrine upon 
the inward light within each man's breast. This 
tendency of the neiv Puritanism, which we may call 
Independency, was a development of the old, purely 
scriptural, Puritanism of Presbyterianism. But it 
was its natural and necessary development. It was a 
consequence of the controversy with the establishment. 
Por both the Church and Dissent agreed in acknow- 
ledging Scripture as their foundation, and the con- 
troversy turned on the interpreter of Scripture. 
Nor was the doctrine of the inner light, which 
individualized the basis of faith, confined to the Non- 
conformists. It was shared by a section of the Church, 

i68S— 1750. 291 

of wliom Cudwortli is the type, to whom ' Scripture 
faith is not a mere believing of historical things, and 
upon artificial arguments or testimonies only, but a 
certain higher and diviner power in the soul that 
peculiarly correspondeth with the Deity.' {Intellectaal 
Spfem, Pref ) The inner light, or witness of the Spirit 
in the soul of the individual believer, had, in its turn, 
fallen into discredit through the extravagances to 
Avhich it had given birth. It was disowned alike by 
Gil urchmen and Nonconformists, who agree in speaking 
with contemptuous pity of the ' sectaries of the last 
a2:e.' The re-action ao'ainst individual relio'ion led to 
this first attempt to base revealed truth on reason. ^ 
And for the purpose for which reason was now wanted, 
the higher, or philosophic, reason was far less fitted 
than that universal understanding in which all men 
can claim a share. The ' inner light,' which had made 
each man the dictator of his own creed, had exploded 
in ecclesiastical anarchy. The appeal from the frantic 
discord of the enthusiasts to reason must needs be, not 
to an arbitrary or particular reason in each man, but 
to a common sense, a natural discernment, a reason of fj>Af 
universal obligation. As it was to be universally 
binding,' it must be generally recognisable. It must 
be something not confined to the select few, a gift of 
the self-styled elect, but a faculty belonging to all men 
of sound mind and average capacity. Truth must be 
accessible to ' the bulk of mankind.' It was a time 
when the only refuge from a hopeless maze, or wild 
chaos, seemed to be the rational consent of the sensible 
and unprejudiced. ' Have the bulk of mankind,' 
w^rites Locke, ' no other guide but accident and blind 
chance to conduct them to their happiness or misery ? 
Are the current opinions and licensed guides of ev^ery 
country sufficient evidence and security to every man 
to venture his great concernments on ? Or, can those 
be the certain and infallible oracles and standards of 
truth which teach one thing in Christendom, and 

u 2 

29:2 Tendencies of Heligious Tliovcjld in England, 

another in Turkey ? Or shall a poor countryman l^e 
eternally happy for having the chance to be born in 
Italy ? Or a clay labourer be unavoidably lost because 
lie had the ill-luck to be born in England? How 
ready some men may be to say some of these things, I 
will not here examine ; but this I am sure, that men 
must allow one or other of these to be true, or else 
grant that God has furnished men with faculties 
sufficient to direct them in the way they should take, 
if they will but seriously employ them that way, 
when their ordinary vocations allow them the leisure.' 
{Essay, Book iv. ch. 19, § 3.) 

Such an attempt to secure a foundation in a new 
consensus will obviously forfeit depth to gain in com- 
prehensiveness. This phase of rationalism — ' Eation- 
alismus vulgaris ' — resigns the transcendental, that it 
may gain adherents. It wants, not the elect, but all 
men. It cannot afford to embarrass itself with the 
attempt to prove what all may not be required to 
receive. Accordingly there can be no mysteries in Chris- 
tianity. The word ^ivm{]piov, as Archbishop Whately 
j)oints out [Essays, 2nd ser., 5th eel., p. 288), always 
means in the New Testament not that which is in- 
comprehensible, but that which was once a secret, 
though now it is revealed it is no longer so. Whately, 
Avho elsewhere (Paley's Evidences, new ed.) speaks so 
contemptuously of the ' cast-off clothes ' of the Deists, 
is here but adopting the argument of Toland in his 
Christianify not Mysterious. (Cf. Balguy, Discourses, 
p. 237.) There needs no special 'preparation of heart' 
to receive the Gospel, the evidences of religion are 
sufficient to convince every unprejudiced inquirer. 
Unbelievers are blameworthy, as deaf to an argument 
which is so plain that they cannot but understand it, 
and so convincing that they cannot but be aware of 
its force. Under sucli self-imposed conditions religious 
proof seems to divest itself of all that is divine, and 
out of an excess of accommodation to the recipient 

1688—1750- 293 

facult}^ to cease to be a transforming tliouglit. Ration- 
alism can object to the old. sacramental system tliat it 
degrades a spiritual iniluence into a pliysical effect. 
But ration alism itself, in-order to make the proof of 
revelation universal, is obliged to resolve religion into 
the moral government of God by rewards and punisli- 
meiits, and especially the latter. It is this anthropo- 
morphic conception of God as the ' Governor of the 
universe,' which is presented to us in the theology of 
the Hanoverian divines, a theology which excludes on 
principle not only all that is poetical in life, but all 
that is sublime in religious speculation. ' To degrade 
religion to the position of a mere purveyor of motive '^ 
to morality is not more dishonourable to the ethics 
which must ask, than to the religion which will render 
such assistance.' (A. J. Vaughan, Essays, vol. i. p. 
6r,) It is this character that makes the reading even 
of the Analogy so depressing to the soul, as Tholuck 
{Vermischfe Schriffen, i. 193) says of it 'we weary of 
a long journey on foot, especially through deep sand.' 
Human nature is not only humbled but crushed. It 
IS a common charge against the i8th century divines 
that they exalt man too much, by insisting on the 
dignity of human nature, and its native capacities for 
virtue. This was the charge urged against the ortho- 
dox by the evangelical pulpit. But only very super- 
ficial and incompetent critics of doctrine can suppose 
that man is exalted by being thrown upon his moral 
faculties. The history of doctrine teaches a very . ' 
different lesson. Those periods when morals have 
been represented as the proper study of man, and his 
only business, have been periods of spiritual abasement 
and poverty. The denial of scientific theology, the • 
keeping in the back-ground the transcendental objects } 
of faith, and the restriction of our faculties to the 
regulation of our conduct, seem indeed to be placing 
man in the foreground of the picture, to make human 
nature the centre round which all thins^s revolve. But 

294 Tendencies of Meliglous TlioKgld in England, 

this seeming effect is produced not by exalting the 
visible, but by materializing the invisible. 'If there be a 
sphere of knowledge level to our capacities and of the 
utmost importance to us, we ought surely to apply our- 
selves with all diligence to this our proper business, and 
esteem everything else nothing, nothing as to us, in 
comparison of it. . . . Our province is virtue 
and religion, life and manners ; the science of improving 
the temper and making the heart better. This is the 
field assigned to us to cultivate ; how much it has lain 
neglected is indeed astonishing. . . . He who 
should find out one rule to assist us in this work would 
deserve infinitely better of mankind than all the im- 
provers of other knowledge put together.' {Sermon 
XV.) This is the theolog}^ of Butler and his contem- 
poraries ; a utilitarian theology, like the Baconian phi- 
losophy, contemning all employment of mental power 
which does not bring in fruit. ' Intellectui non plumse, 
sed plumbum addendum et pondera/ (Bacon, Nov. Or., 
i. 104,) might be its device. 

In the Analogy it is the same. His term of compari- 
son, the 'constitution and course o^ nature' is not what 
we should understand b}^ that term ; not what science 
can disclose to us of the laws of the cosmos, but a nar- 
row observation of what men do in ordinary life. We 
see what he means by the ' constitution of things,' by 
his saying {Sermon xv.) that ' the writings of Solomon 
are very much taken up with reflections upon human 
nature and human life ; to which he hath added, in 
Ecclesiastes, reflections upon the constitution of things.' 
In Part i. ch. 3, of the Jinalogi/, he compares the moral 
government of God with the natural — the distinction 
is perhaps from Balguy {Divine Rectitude, p. 39), — that 
is to say, one part of natural religion with another ; 
for the distinction vanishes, except upon a very con- 
ventional sense of the term ' moral.' Altogether we 
miss in these divines not only "distinct philosophical 
conceptions, but a scientific use of terms. Dr. Whewell 

i688— 1750. 295 

considers that Butler shunned 'the appearance of 
technical terms for the elements of our moral consti- 
tution on which he speculated,' and thinks that he 
' was driven to indirect modes of expression.' {Moral 
Philosoplij/ in England, p. 109.) The truth is that 
Butler uses the language of his day upon the topics on 
which he writes. The technical terms, and strict 
logical forms, which had been adhered to by the 
writers, small as well as great, of the 17th century, 
had been disused as pedantic ; banished first from 
literature, and then from education. They did not 
appear in style, because they did not form part of the 
mental habit of the writers. Butler does not, as Dr. 
Whewell supposes, think in one form, and write in 
another, out of condescension to his readers. He 
thinks in the same lang-uao'e in which he and those 
around him speak. Mr. Hort's remark, that ' Butler's 
writings are stoic to the core in the true and ancient 
sense of the word ' {Cambridge Essays, 1856, p. 337), 
must be extended to their style. The English style 
of philosophical writing in the Hanoverian period is 
to the English of the 17th century, as the Greek of 
Epictetus, Antoninus, or Plutarch, is to that of Ari- 
stotle. And for the same reason. The English stoics 
and their Greek predecessors were practical men who 
moralized in a practical way on the facts of common life, 
and in the language of common life. Neither the rhe- 
torical Schools of the Empire, nor the Universities of 
England, any longer taught the correct use of meta- 
physical language. To imitate classical Latin Avas 
become the chief aim of the University man in his 
public exercises, and precision of language became 
under that discipline very speedily a lost art. 

Upon the whole, the writings of that period are 
serviceable to us, chiefly, as showing what can, and 
what cannot, be effected by common -sense thinking in 
theology. It is of little consequence to inquire, 
whether or not the objections of the Deists and the 

296 Tendencies of Religious TliougM in England, 

Socinians were removed by the answers brought to 
meet them. Perhaps, on the whole, we might be 
borne out in saying that the defence is at least as 
good as the attack ; and so, that even on the ground 
of common reason, the Christian evidences may be 
arranged in such a way as to balance the common- 
sense improbability of the supernatural — that ' there 
are three chances to one for revelation, and only two 
against it.' {Tracts for the Times, No. 85.) Had not 
_^^ circumstances given a new direction to religious 
interests, the Deistical controversy might have gone 
on indefinitely, and the amoeba^an strain of objection 
and reply, ' et cantare pares et respondere parati' — have 
been prolonged to this day without any other result. 
But that result forces on the mind the suggestion that 
either religious faith has no existence, or that it must 
be to be reached by some other road than that of the 
' trial of the witnesses.' It^js a reductio ad absurdum 
of common-sense j)hilosophy, of home-baked theology, 
when we find that the result of the whole is that 'it 
is safer to believe in a God, lest^ if there should 
liappen to be one, he might send us to hell for deny- 
ing his existence.' (Maurice, Essays, p. 236.) If a 
religion be wanted which shall debase instead of ele- 
vating, this should be its creed. If the religious 
history of the i8tli century proves anything it is 
this : — That good sense, the best good sense, when 
it sets to work with the materials of human nature and 
Scripture to construct a religion, will find its way to 
an ethical code, irreproachable in its contents, and 
based on a just estimate and wise observation of the 
facts of life, ratified by Divine sanctions in the shape 
of hope and fear, of future rewards and penalties of 
obedience and disobedience. This the 18th cen- 
, tury did and did well. It has enforced the truths 
# of natural morality with a solidity of argument and 
'■ variety of proof which they have not received since 
the Stoical epoch, if then. But there its ability ended. 

i6S8— 1750. 297 

A^Hien it came to tlie supernatural part of Cliristianity 
its embarrassment Logan. It was forced to keep it 
as much in the background as possible, or to bolster 
it up by lame and inadequate reasonings. The philo- 
sophy of common-sense had done its own work ; it 
attempted more only to show, by its failure, that some 
higher orranon was needed for the establishment of 
supernatural truth. The career of the evidential 
school, its success and failure, — its success in vindi- -^ 
eating the ethical part of Christianity and the regula- 
tive aspect of revealed truth, its failure in establishing \ 
the supernatural and speculative part — have enriched 4'. 
the history of doctrine with a complete refutation of 
that method as an instrument of theological investi- 

This judgment, however, must not be left unbalanced 
by a consideration on the other side. It will hardly 
be supposed that the drift of what has been said is 
that common-sense is out of place in religion, or in 
any other matter. The defect of the i8th century 
theology was not in having too much good sense, 
but in having nothing besides. In the present day 
when a godless orthodoxy threatens, as in the i5tli 
century, to extinguish religious thought altogether, 
and nothing is allowed in the Church of England but 
the formulcie of past thinkings, which have long lost 
all sense of any kind ; it may seem out of season to 
be bringing forward a misapplication of common-sense 
in a bygone age. There are times and circumstances 
when religious ideas will be greatly benefited by being 
submitted to tlie rough and ready tests by which busy 
men try what comes in their way ; by being made to 
stand their trial, and be freely canvassed, coram populo. 
As poetry is not for the critics, so religion is not for 
the theologians. When it is stiffened into phrases, 
and these phrases are declared to be objects of reverence 
but not of intelligence, it is on the way to become a 
useless encumbrance, the rubbish of the past, blocking 

298 Tendencies of 'Religious Thought in England, 

the road. Theology then retires into the position it 
occupies in the Church of Rome at present, an unmean- 
ing frostwork of dogma, out of all relation to the actual 
history of man. In that system, theological virtue 
is an artificial life quite distinct from the moral virtues 
of real life. ' Parmi nous,' says E-emusat, ' un homme 
religieux est trop souvent un homme qui se croit 
entoure d'ennemis, qui voit avec defiance ou scandale 
les evenements et les institutions du siecle, qui se dcsole 
d'etre ne dans les jours maudits, et qui a besoin d'un 
grand fond de bonte innce pour empecher ses pieuses 
aversions de devenir de mortelles haines.' This 
system is equally fatal to popular morality and to 
religious theory. It locks up virtue in the cloister, 
and theology in the libraiy. It originates caste 
sanctity, and a traditional philosophy. The ideal of 
holiness striven after may once have been lofty, the 
philosophy now petrified into tradition may once have 
been a vital faith, but now that they are withdrawn 
from public life, they have ceased to be social influ- 
ences. On the other hand, the i8th century exhibits 
human attainment levelled to the lowest secular model 
of prudence and honesty, but still, such as it was, 
proposed to all men as their rule of life. 1Pra,ctical 
life as it was, was the theme of the pulpit, the pre^ss^ 
and the drawing-room. Its theory of life was not 
lof1:y, l)iit it was true as far as it went. It did not 
substitute a factitious phraseology, the pass-words of 
the modern pulpit, for the simple facts of life, but 
called things by their right names. ' Nullum numen 
liabes si sit prudentia' was its motto, not denying the 
' nuraen,' but bringing him very close to the indivi- 
dual person, as his ' moral governor.' The prevailing 
philosophy was not a profound metaphysic, but it was 
a soundly based arrangement of the facts of society ; 
it was not a scheme of the sciences, but a manual for 
every-day use. Nothing of the wild spirit of imiversal 
negation which was spread over the Continent fifty 

i68S— 1750. 299 

years later belonged to the solid rationalism of tliis 
period. The human understanding- wished to be 
satisfied, and did not care to believe that of which it 
could not see the substantial ground. The reason 
was coming slowly to see that it had duties which it 
could not devolve upon others ; that a man must think 
for himself, protect his own rights, and administer his 
own affairs. The reason was never less extravagant 
than in this its first essay of its strength. Its demands 
were modest, it was easily satisfied ; far too easily, we 
must think, when we look at some of the reasonings 
which passed as valid. 

The habits of controversy in which they lived 
deceived the belligerents themselves. The contro- 
versial form of their theology, which has been fatal to 
its credit since, was no less detrimental to its sound- 
ness at the time. They could not discern the line 
between what they did, and what they could not, 
prove. The polemical temper deforms the books they 
have written. Literature was indeed partially refined 
from the coarser scurrilities with which the Caroline 
divines, a century before, had assailed their Romanist 
opponents. But there is still an air of vulgarity about 
the polite writing of the age, which the divines adopt 
along with its style. The cassocked divine assumes 
the airs of the ' roaring blade,' and ruffles it on the 
mall with a horsewhip under his arm. Warburton's 
stock argument is a threat to cudgel any one who dis- 
putes his opinion. All that can be said is that this 
was a habit of treating your opponent which pervaded 
society. At a much later period Porson complains, 
Tn these ticklish times . . . talk of religion it 
is odds but you have infidel, blasphemer, atheist, or 
schismatic, thundered in your ears ; touch upon 
politics, you will be in luck if you are only charged 
with a tendency to treason. Nor is the innocence of 
your intention any safeguard. It is not the publication 

300 Tendencies of Jteligious TIioii(/ht in En (/land, 

that shows the character of the author, but the 
character of the author that shows the tendency of 
the publication.' (Luard's ' Porson,' Camh. Essays, 
1857.) A license of party vituperation in the House 
of Commons existed, from the time of the opposition 
to Walpole onwards, which has long been banished by 
more humane manners. ' The men who took a fore- 
most part seemed to be intent on disparaging each 
other, and proving that neither possessed any quali- 
fication of wisdom, knowledge, or public virtue. 
Epithets of reproach were lavished personally on Lord 
North, which were applicable only to the vilest and 
most contemptible of mankind.' (Massey, Hist, of 
England, ii. 218.) 

Were this blustering language a blemish of stjde 
and nothing more, it would taint their books with 
vulgarity as literature, but it would not vitiate their 
matter. But the fault reaches deeper than skin-deep. 
It is a most serious drawback on the good-sense of the 
age that it wanted justice in its estimate of persons. 
They were no more capable of judging their friends 
than their foes. In Pope's satire there is no medium; 
our enemies combine all the odious vices, however 
incongruous ; our friends have ' every virtue under 
heaven.' AVe hear sometimes of Pope's peculiar 
' malignity.' But he was only doing what every one 
around him was doing, only with a greatly superior 
literary skill. Their savage invective against each 
other is not a morally worse feature than the style of 
fulsome compliment in which friends address each 
other. The private correspondence of intimate friends 
betraj^s an unwholesome insincerity, which contrasts 
strangely with their general manliness of character. 
The burly intellect of Warburton displays an appetite 
for flattery as insatiable as that of Miss Seward 
and her coterie. 

This habit of exa£ff]['eratini>' both p-ood and evil the 
divines share with the other writers of the time. But 

i688 — 1750. 301 

tlieological literature, as a written debate, had a form 
of malignant impntation peculiar to itself This is 
one arising out of the rationalist ic fiction which both 
parties assumed, viz., that their respective beliefs were 
determined by an impartial inquiry into the evidence. 
The orthodox writers considered this evidence so clear 
and certain for their own conclusions, that they could 
account for its not seeming so to others only by the 
supposition of some moral obliquity which darkened 
the undcrstandino' in such cases. Hence the obnoxious 
assumption of the divines that the Deists were men of 
corrupt morale, and the retort of the infidel writers, 
that i]\e clergy were hired advocates. Moral impu- 
tation, which is justly banished from legal argument, 
seems to find a proper place in theological. Those 
Christian Ueists who, like Toland or Collins, ap- 
proached most nearly in their belief to Revelation, 
were treated, not better, but worse, by the orthodox 
champions ; their larger admissions being imputed to 
disingenuousness or calculated reserve. This stamp of 
advocacy which was impressed on English theology at 
the Reformation — its first work of consideration was 
an ' Apology' — it has not to this day shaken off. Our 
theologians, with rare exceptions, do not penetrate 
below the surface of their subject, but are engaged in 
defending or vindicating it. The current phrases of / 
' the bulwarks of our faith,' ' dangerous to Christianity,' 
are but instances of the habitual position in which we 
assume ourselves to stand. Even more philosophic i. 
minds cannot get rid of the idea that theo^'^^j is 
polemical. Theological study is still the study of 
topics of defence. Even Professor Eraser can exhort us 
' that by the study of these topics we might not merely 
disarm the enemies of religion of what, in other times 
has been, and will continue to be a favourite weapon 
of assault, but we might even convert that weapon 
into an instrument of use in the Christian service.' 
{Essoj/s in Philosojjiii/, p. 4.) ' Modern science,' as it 

302 Tendencies of Relipoiis Thoucjld in England, 

is called, is recommended to tlie young divine, because 
in it he may find means of * confuting infidelity.' 

A little consideration will show that the grounds 
on which advocacy before a legal tribunal rests, make 
it inappropriate in theological reasoning. It is not 
pretended that municipal law is coextensive with uni- 
versal law, and therefore incapable of admitting right 
on both sides. It is allowed that the natural right 
may be, at times, on one side, and the legal title 
on the other ; not to mention the extreme case where 
' communis error facit jus.' The advocate is not there 
to supply all the materials out of which the judge is 
to form his decision, but only one side of the case. 
He is the mere representative of his client's interests, 
and has not to discuss the abstract merits of the 
juridical point which may be involved. He does not 
undertake to show that the law is conformable to na- 
tural right, but to establish the condition of his client 
relatively to the law. But the rational defender of 
the faith has no place in his system for the variable, 
or the indifierent, or the non-natural. He proceeds 
on the supposition that the whole system of the 
Church is the one and exclusively true expression of 
reason upon the subject on which it legislates. He 
claims for the whole of received knowledge what the 
jurist claims for international law, to be a universal 
science. He lays before us, on the one hand, the tra- 
ditional canon or symbol of doctrine. On the other 
hand, he teaches that the free use of reason upon the 
facts of nature and Scripture is the real mode by 
which this traditional symbol is arrived at. To show, 
then, that the candid pursuit of truth leads ever}^ im- 
partial intellect to the Anglican conclusion was the 
task which, on their theory of religious proof, their 
theology had to undertake. The process, accordingly, 
^ should have been analogous to that of the jurist or 
\- legislator with regard to the internal evidence, and to 
that of the judge with regard to the external evidence. 

i68S— 1750. 303 

If tlieological argument forg-ets the judge and assumes 
the advocate, or betrays the least bias to one side, the 
conclusion is valueless, the principle of free inquiry 
has been violated. Roman Catholic theologians con- 
sistently enough teach that ' apologetics ' make no 
part of theolog}^ as usually conducted by way of reply 
to special objections urged, but that a true apologetic 
must be founded (i) on a discovery of the general 
principle from which the attack proceeds, and (2) on 
the exhibition, per contra, of that general ground- 
thought of which the single Christian truths are de- 
velopments. (Hageman, Die Aufgahe der Catholischcn 

With rare exceptions the theology of the Hanove- 
rian period is of the most violently partisan character. 
It seats itself, by its theory, in the judicial chair, but 
it is only to comport itself there like Judge Jefferies. 
One of the favourite books of the time was Sherlock's 
Trial of the JFitnesses. First published in 1729, it 
speedily went through fourteen editions. It con- 
cludes in this way : — 

' Judge. — What say you? Are the Apostles guilty 
of giving false evidence in the case of the resurrection 
of Jesus, or not guilty ? 

'■Foreman. — Not guilty. 

' Judge. — Very well ; and now, gentlemen, I resign 
my commission, and am your humble servant. The 
company then rose up, and were beginning to pay 
their compliments to the Judge and the counsel, 
but were interrupted by a gentleman, who went up 
to the Judge and offered him a fee. 'What is this?' 
says the Judge. ' A fee, sir,' said the gentleman. 
* A fee to a judge is a bribe,' said the Judge. ' True, 
sir,' said the gentleman ; ' but you have resigned your 
commission, and will not be the first judge who has 
come from the bench to the bar without any dimi- 
nution of honour. Now, Lazarus's case is to come 
on next, and this fee is to retain 3'ou on his side.' 

304 Tendencies of Heligious ThoufjU in England, 

One might say tliat the apologists of that day had 
in like manner left the bench for the bar, and taken 
a brief for the Apostles. They are impatient at the 
smallest demur, and deny loudly that there is any 
weight in anything advanced by their opponents. 
In the way they override the most serious difficulties, 
they show anything but the temper which is sup- 
posed to qualify for the weighing of evidence. The 
astonishing want of candour in their reasoning, their 
blindness to real difficulty, the ill-concealed predeter- 
mination to find a particular verdict, the rise of their 
style in passion in the same proportion as their argu- 
ment fails in strength, constitute a class of writers 
more calculated than any other to damage their own 
cause with young ingenuous minds, bred in the school 
of Locke to believe that ' to love truth for truth's sake 
is the principal part of human perfection in this world, 
and the seed-plot of all other virtues.' (Locke, set. 73. 
Letter to Collins.) Spalding has described the moral 
shock his faith received on hearing an eminent 
clergyman in confidential conversation with another, 
who had cited some powerful argument against reve- 
lation, say, ' That's truly awkward ; let us consider a 
little how we get out of that ;' ivie wir uns salviren. 
{Selbstbiographil^, p. J28.) A truthful mind is a much 
rarer possession than is commonly supposed, for ' it is 
as easy to close the eyes of the mind as those of the 
body.' (Butler, Sermon x.) And in this rarity there 
is a natural limit to the injury wliich un candid vin- 
dications of revelation can cause. To whatever causes 
is to be attributed the decline of Deism, from 1750 
onwards, the books polemically written against it can- 
not reckon among them. When Casaubon first vi- 
sited Paris, and was being shown over the Sorbonne, 
his guide said, ' This is the hall in which the doctors 
have disputed for 300 years.' ' Aye ! and what have 
they settled?' was his remark. 

Some exceptions, doubtless, there are to the incon- 

i688— 1750. 305 

clusiveness of tins debate. Here again the eminent 
instance is the Analogi/. Butler, it is true, comes 
forward not asjan investigator, hut as a jDleader. But 
when we pass from his inferior brethren to this great 
master of the art, we find ourselves in the hands of 
one who knows the laws of evidence, and carefully 
keeps his statements within them. Butler does not, 
like his fellow apologists, disguise the fact that the 
evidence is no stronger than it is. ' If it be a poor 
thing,' to argue in this way, ' the epithet yjoor may be 
applied, I fear, as properly to great part, or the whole, 
of haman life, as it is to the things mentioned.' 
{Analogy, Part ii. ch. 8.) Archbishop Whately, de- 
fining the temper of the rational theologian, saj^s : — 
' A good man will, indeed, wish to find the evidence 
of the Christian religion satisfactory ; but a wise man 
will not, for that reason, think it satisfactory, but will 
weigh the evidence the more carefully on account of 
the importance of the question.' {Essays, 2nd series, 
p. 24.) This character Butler's argument exemplifies. 
We can feel, as we read, how his judgment must have 
been offended in his contemporaries by the dispro- 
portion between the positiveness of their assertion 
and the feebleness of tlieir argument. Nor should 
we expect that Butler satisfied them. They thought 
him ' a little too little vigorous,' and ' wished he 
would have spoke more earnestly.' (Byrom's Journal, 
March, 1737.) Men who believed that they were in 
possession of a ' demonstration' of Christianity were 
not likely to be satisfied with one who saw so strongly 
' the doubtfulness in which things were involved' that 
he could not comprehend ' men's being impatient out 
of action or vehement in it.' {Unpublished Eemains, 
^'c.) Warburton, who has a proof which ' is very- 
little short of mathematical certainty, and to whicli 
nothing but a mere physical possibility of the contrary 
can be opposed' {Divine Leg., b. i. % i), was the man 
for the age, which did not care to stand higgling with 


306 lendencies of HeligiouB Thouglit in Erif/land, 

Butler over the degrees of probability. "What couLl 
the world do with a man who ' designed the search 
after truth as the business of my life' {Correspondence 
with Dr. Clarke), and who was so little prepared to 
dogmatise about the^ future world that he rather felt 
that ' there is no account to be given in the way of 
reason of men's so strong attachments to the present 
world.' {Sermon vii.) Butler's doubtfulness, however, 
it should be remarked, is not the unsteadiness of the 
sceptical, but the wariness of the judicial mind ; a 
mind determined for itself by its own instincts, but 
careful to confine its statements to others within the 
evidence produced in court. The Analogy does not 
depicture an inward struggle in his own mind, but as 
' he told a friend, his way of writing it had been to 
endeavour to answer as he went along, every possible 
objection that might occur to any one against any 
position of his in his book.' (Bartlett's Life of Butler, 
p. 50.) He does not doubt himself, but he sees, what 
others do not see, the difficulty of proving religion to 
others. There is a saying of Pitt circulating to the 
effect that the Analocjy is ' a dangerous book ; it raises 
more doubts than it solves.' All that is true in this 
is, that to a mind which has never nourished objections 
to revelation a book of evidences may be the means of 
first suggesting them. But in 1736 the objections 
were everywhere current, and the answers to them 
were mostly of that truly ' dangerous' sort in which 
assertion runs ahead of proof. The merit of Butler 
lies not in the ' irrefragable £roof,' which South ey's 
epit:i})h attributes to his construction, but in his 
showing the nature of the proof, and daring to admit 
that it was less than certain ; to own that ' a man msy 
be fully convinced of the truth of a matter and upon 
the strongest reasons, and yet not be able to answer 
all the difficulties which may be raised upon it.' 
{Durham Charge, 1751.) 

Another, perhaps the only other, book of this 

— 1750. 307 

polemical tribe wliicli can be said to have been com- 
pletely successful as an answer, is one most unlike the 
AnaJofjij in all its nobler features. This is Bentley's 
Remarks upon a late Discourse of FreetJiinhing, by 
P/iUelentherus Lipsiensis, 17 13. Coarse, arrogant, and 
abusive, with all Bentley's worst faults of style and 
temper, this masterly critique is decisive. Not, of 
course, of the Deistical controversy, on which the critic 
avoids entering. The Discourse of Freethinking was a 
small tract published in 17 13 -by Anthony Collins. 
Collins was a gentleman of independent fortune, whose 
high personal character and general respectability 
seemed to give a weight to his words, which assuredly 
they do not carry of themselves. By ' freethinking,' 
he means liberty of thought — the right of bringing 
all received opinions whatsoever to the touchstone of 
reason. Among the grounds or authorities by which 
he supports this natural right, Collins unluckily had 
recourse to history, and largely, of course, to the pre- 
cedent of the Greek philosophers. Collins, who had 
been bred at Eton and King's, was probably no worse 
a scholar than his contemporary Ivingsmen, and the 
range of his reading was that of a man who had 
made the classics the companions of his maturer years. 
But that scholarship which can supply a quotation 
from Lucan, or jflavour the style with an occasional 
allusion to Tully or Seneca, is quite incompetent to 
apply Greek or Eoman precedent properly to a modern 
case. Addison, the pride of Oxford, had done no 
better. In his Essays on the Emdences of Christiainfy, 
Addison ' assigns as grounds for his religious belief, 
stories as absurd as that of the Cocklane ghost, and 
forgeries as rank as Ireland's Vortiyern, puts faith in 
the lie about the thundering legion, is convinced tluit 
Tiberius moved the Senate to admit Jesus among the 
gods, and pronounces the letter of Agbarus, King of 
Edessa, to be a record of great authority.' (Macaulay : 
Essays.) But the public was quite satisfied with 

X 2 

308 Tendencies of ReU(/ious Tltougld in England, 

Addison's citations, in wliicli a public, which had 
given the victory to Boyle in the Plialaris controversy, 
could hardly suspect anything wrong. Collins was 
not to escape so easily. The Freethinker flounders 
hopelessly among the authorities he has invoked. 
Like the necromancer's apprentice, he is worried by 
the fiends he has summoned but cannot lay, and 
Bentley, on whose nod they wait, is there like another 
Cornelius Agrippa hounding them on and enjoying 
the sport. Collins's mistakes, mistranslations, miscon- 
ceptions, and distortions are so monstrous, that it is 
difficult for us now, forgetful how low classical learning 
had sunk, to believe that they are mistakes, and not 
wilful errors. It is rare sport to Bentley, this rat- 
hunting in an old rick, and he lays about him in high 
glee, braining an authority at every blow. When he 
left off' abruptly, in the middle of a ' Third Part,' it 
was not because he was satiated with slaughter, but 
to substitute a new excitement, no less congenial to 
his temper — a quarrel with the University about his 
fees. A grace, voted 17 15, tendering him the public 
thanks of the University, and ' praying him in the 
name of the University to finish what remains of so 
useful a work,' could not induce him to resume his 
pen. The Remarks of Phileleiifheriis Lipsiensis, un- 
finished though they are, and trifling as was the book 
which gave occasion to them, are perhaps the best of 
all Bentley 's performances. They have all the merits 
of the Phalaris dissertation, with the advantage of a 
far nobler subject. They show how Bentley's exact 
appreciation of the value of terms could, when he 
chose to apply it to that purpose, serve him as a key 
to the philosophical ideas of past times, no less than 
to those of poetical metaphor. The tone of the 
pamphlet is most offensive, ' not only not insipid, but 
exceedingly bad-tasted.' We can only say the taste 
is that of his age, while the knowledge is all his own. 
It was fair to show that his antagonist undertook ' to 

i688— 1750. 309 

interpret the Prophets and Solomon without Hebrew; 
Plutarch and Zosimus (Collins spells it Zozimus) 
without Greek ; and Cicero and Lucan without Latin.' 
{Bemarks, Part i. No. 3.) But the dirt endeavoured 
to be thrown on Collins will cleave to the hand that 
throws it. It may be worth mention that this tract of 
Bentley contains the original of Sydney Smith's cele- 
brated defence of the 'prizes' in the Church. The pas- 
sage is a favourable specimen of the moral level of a 
polemic who was accusing his opponent of holding 
' opinions the most abject and base that human nature 
is capable of.' (Letter prefixed to Remarks.) 

' He can never conceive or wish a priesthood either 
quieter for him, or cheaper, than that of the present 
Church of England. Of your quietness himself is a 
convincing proof, who has writ this outrageous book, 
and has met with no punishment nor prosecution. 
And for the cheapness, that appeared lately in one of 
your parliaments, when the accounts exhibited showed 
that 5000 of your clergy, the greaier part of your 
whole number, had, at a middle rate one with another, 
not 50 pounds a year. A poor emolument for so long, 
so laborious, so expensive an education, as must qualify 
them for holy orders. AVlide I resided at Oxford, and 
saw such a conflux of youth to their annual admis- 
sions, I have often studied and admired why their 
parents would, under such mean encouragements, 
design their sons for the church ; and those the most 
towardly and capable, and select geniuses among their 
children, who must needs have emerged in a secular 
life. I congratulated, indeed, the felicity of ^^our 
establishment, which attracted the choice youth of 
your nation for such very low pay ; but my wonder 
was at the parents, who generally have interest, main- 
tenance and wealth, the first thing in their view, till 
at last one of your state-lotteries ceased my astonish- 
ment. For as in that, a few glittering prizes, i,cco, 
5,coo, ] 0,000 pounds among an infinity of blanks. 

310 Tc7idencics of Religious Thouglit in EngJcmd, 

drew troops of adventurers, who if the whole fund 
had been equally ticketted, would never have come 
in ; so a few shining dignities in your church, pre- 
bends, deaneries, bishopricks, are the pious fraud that 
induces and decoys the parents to risk their child's 
fortune in it. Everyone hopes his own will get some 
prize in the church, and never reflects on the thou- 
sands of blanks in poor country livings. And if a 
foreigner may tell you his mind, from what he sees 
at home, 'tis this part of your establishment that makes 
your clergy excel ours \i.e., in Germany, from which 
Phileleut/ienis Lijjsiensis is supposed to write]. Do but 
once level all your preferments, and you'll soon be as 
level in your learning. For, instead of the flower of 
the English youth, you'll have only the refuse sent to 
your academies, and those, too, cramped and crippled 
in their studies, for want of aim and emulation. So 
that, if your Freethinkers had any politics, instead of 
suppressing your whole order, they should make you 
all alike ; or if that cannot be done, make your prefer- 
ments a very lottery in the whole similitude. Let 
your church dio^nities be pure chance prizes, without 
regard to abilities, or morals, or letters.' {Remarks, 
8fc., Part ii. § 40.) 

It has been mentioned that Bentley does not attempt 
to reply to the argument of the Discourse on Free- 
thinking. His tactic is to ignore it, and to assume 
that it is only meant as a covert attack on Christianity ; 
that Collins is an Atheist fighting under the disguise 
of a Deist. Some excuse, perhaps, may be made for a 
man nourished on pedagogic latin, and accustomed to 
launch furious sarcasm at any opponent who betrayed 
a brutal ignorance of the diflerence between ' ac ' and 
* et.' ^ But Collins was not a sharper, and would have 
disdained practices to which Bentley stooped for the 
sake of a professorship. When Bentley, in the pride 
of academic dignity, could thus browbeat a person of 
Collins's consideration, it was not to be expected that 

i688— J750. 311 

the inferior fry of Deistical writers, — Toland, a writer 
for the press ; Tinclal, a fellow of a college ; or Clrabb. 
a journeyman glover — met with fairer treatment from 
their opponents. The only exception to this is the 
case of Shaftesbury, to whom, as well after his death 
as in his lifetime, his privileges as a peer seem to have 
secured immunity from hangman's usage. He is 
simply ' a late noble author.' Nor was this respect 
inspired by the Earl's profession of Christianity. He 
does, indeed, make this profession with the utmost 
unreserve. He asserts his ' steady orthodoxy,' and 
' entire submission to the truly Christian and Catholic 
doctrines of our holy Church, as by law established,' 
and that he holds ' the mysteries of our religion even 
in the minutest particulars.' {Characteristicks,Yo\.\\\. 
p. 315.) But this outward profession would only have 
brought down upon any other writer an aggravated 
charge of cowardly malice and concealment of Atheism. 
If Shaftesbury was spared on account of his rank, the 
orthodox writers were not altogether wrong in fasten- 
ing upon this disingenuousness as a moral charac- 
teristic of their antagonists. The excuse for this want 
of manliness in men who please themselves with in- 
sinuating unpopular opinions which they dare not 
advocate openly, is that it is an injustice perpetrated by 
those who have public feeling on their side. ' They 
make,' says Mr. Tayler, 'the honest expression of 
opinion penal, and then condemn men for disingenu- 
ousness. They invite to free discussion, but deter- 
mine beforehand that only one conclusion can be sound 
and moral. They fill the arena of public debate with 
every instrument of torture and annoyance for the 
feeling heart, the sensitive imagination, and the scru- 
pulous intellect, and then are angry that men do not 
rush headlong into the martyrdom that has been pre- 
pared for them.' {Relic/ious Life of England, p. 282.) 

In days when the pillory was the punishment for 
common libel, it cannot be thought much that heresy 

312 Tendencies of Reliyious Thouglit in England, 

and infidelity should be punished by public opprobrium. 
And public abhorrence was the most that a writer 
against revelation had now to fear. Mandeville's 
FahJe of the Bees, indeed, was presented as a nuisance 
by the grand jury of Middlesex, in 1723, as were 
Bolingbroke's collected 'Works' in 1752, and Toland's 
Christianity not Mysterious, in 1699. We find, too, that 
Toland had to fly from Dublin, and Collins to go out 
of the way to Holland, for fear of further consequences. 
But nothing ever came of these presentments. The 
only prosecution for religious libel was that of Wool- 
ston, 2 George II., in which the defendant, who was 
not of sound mind, provoked and even compelled the 
law officers of the crown to proceed against him, 
tliough they were very reluctant to do so. When 
thus compelled to declare the law, on this occasion, 
the Lord Chief Justice (Eaymond) ' would not allow 
it to be doubted that to write against Christianity in 
general was punishable at common law.' Yet both 
then and since, judges and prosecutors have shown 
themselves shy of insisting upon the naked offence of 
' impugning the truth of Christianity.' That it is an 
offence at common law, independent of 9 & 10 Wil- 
liam III., no lawyer will deny. But an instinctive sense 
of the incompatibility of this legal doctrine with the 
fundamental tenet of Protestant rationalism has always 
served to keep it in the background. ' The judges 
seem to have played fast and loose in this matter, in 
such sort as might enable the future judge to quote 
the tolerant or the intolerant side of their doctrine as 
might prove convenient; and while seemingly dis- 
avowing all interference with fair discussion, they 
still kept a wary hold of the precedents of Hale and 
Eaymond, and of the great arcanum of 'part and 
parcel ;' ' semianimesque micant digiti, ferrumque 
retractant.' {Considerations on the Laio of Lifjel. By 
John Search, 1833.) 

Whatever excuse the Deistical writers might have 

i688— 1750. 313 

for their insidious manner of writing, it is more to tlie 
present purpose to observe that we may draw from it 
the conckision that public op)inion was throughout on 
the side of the defenders of Christianity. It might 
seeni"almost~ su]5erfluous to say this, were it not that 
complaints meet us on every side, which seem to 
imply the very contrary ; that in the words of Mr. 
Gregory, ' the doctrine of our Church is exploded, 
and our holy religion become onl}^ a name which is 
everywhere spoken against.' {Pre/, to Beveridge s 
Private Tltoughts^ 1709.) Thirty years later Butler 
writes, that ' it is come to be taken for granted that 
Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry ; 
but that it is now, at length, discovered to be fictitious. 
Accordingly they treat it as if in the present age this 
were an agreed point among all people of discernment, 
and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal 
subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of 
reprisals for its having so long interrupted the pleasures 
of the world.' {Advertisement to Jnalo(/i/, 1736.) JHpw- 
ever a loose kind of Deism might be the tone of 
iashionable circles, it is clear that distinct disbelief 
of Ch ristianity w as Ijy no means the general state of 
the public mind. The leaders of the Low-church and 
W lug" party were quite aware of this. Notwithstand- 
ing the universal complaints of the High-church party 
of the prevalence of infidelity, it is obvious that this 
mode of thinking was confined to a very small section 
of society. The Indejjendent Whig (May 4, 1720), in 
the middle of its blustering and endeavours to terrify 
the clergy with their unpopularity, is obliged to admit 
that 'the High-church Popish clergy will laugh in 
their sleeves at this advice, and think there is folly 
enough yet left among the laity to support their 
authority; and will laugh themselves, and rejoice over 
the ignorance of the Universities, the stupidity of the 
drunken squires, the panic of the tender sex, and 
the never-to-be- shaken constancv of the multitude/ 

314 Tendencies of Meligious Thovgid in England^ 

A still better evidence is the confidence and success 
with which the writers on the side of Revelation 
appealed to the popular passions, and cowed their 
Ueistical opponents into the use of that indirect and 
disingenuous procedure with which they then taunted 
them. The clerical sphere was much more a sphere 
by itself than it has since become. Notwithstanding 
the large toleration really practised, strict professional 
etiquette was still observed in the Church and the 
Universities. The horizontal hat, the starched band, 
and the cassock, were still worn in public, and certain 
proprieties of outward manner were expected from ' the 
cloth,' The violation of these proprieties was punished 
by the forfeiture of the offender's prospects of prefer- 
ment, a point on which the most extreme sensitiveness 
existed. In the Balguy and Waterland set an oflScious 
spirit of delation seems to have flourished. The 
general habit of publicly canvassing religious topics 
was very favourable to this espionage ; as, at the Ee- 
formation, the Catholics gathered their best calumnies 
against Luther from his unreserved ' table-talk.' It 
was not difficult to draw the unhappy Middleton 
into ' unguarded expressions' (Van Mildert, Life of 
Waterland, p. 162) ; and something which had fallen 
from Bundle in his younger days was used against him 
so successfully that even the Talbot interest was able 
to procure him only an Irish bishoprick. Lord 
Chesterfield, seeing what advantage the High-church 
party derived from this tactic, endeavoured to turn it 
against them. He gives a circumstantial account of 
a conversation with Pope, which would tend to prove 
that Atterbury was, nearly all his life, a sceptic. The 
thing was not true, as Mr. Carruthers has shown 
{^Life of Pope, 2nd ed. p. 213), and true or false, the 
weapon in Chesterfield's hands was pointless. 

Though the general feeling of the country was 
sufficiently decided to oblige all who wished to write 
against Christianity, to do so under a mask, this was 

1688—1750- 315 

not the case witli attacks upon the Clergy. Since the 
days of the Lollards there had never been a time 
when the established ministers of religion were held 
in so much contempt as in the Hanoverian period, or 
when satire upon churchmen was so congenial to 
general feeling. This too was the more extraordinary, 
as there was no feelin"- ag-ainst the Church Establish- 
ment, nor was non-conformity as a theory ever less in 
favour. The contempt was for the persons, manners, 
and character of the ecclesiastics. When Macaulay 
brought out his portrait of the clergyman of the 
revolution period, his critics endeavoured to show that 
that portrait was not true to life. They seem to have 
brought out the fact that it was pretty fairly true to 
literature. The difficult point is to estimate how far 
the satirical and popular literature of any age may be 
taken as representative of life. Satire to be popular 
must exaggerate, but it must be exaggeration of known 
and recognised facts. Mr. Churchill Babington [Cha- 
racter' of the Clergy, cjr., considered, p. 48) sets aside 
two of Macaulay's authorities, Oldham and T. Wood, 
because Oldham was an Atheist and Wood a Deist. 
Admitting that an Atheist and a Deist can be under no 
obligation to truth, yet a satirist, who intends to be 
read, is under the most inevitable engagement to the 
probable. Satire does not create the sentiment to 
which it appeals. A portrait of the country parson 
temp. George the Second which should be drawn 
verbatim from the pamphlets of the day would be no 
more historical, than is that portrait of the begging 
friar of the 16th century which our historians repeat 
after Erasmus and the EpistolcB Obscurorum Virorum. 
History may be extracted from them, but these carica- 
tures are not themselves history. 

One inference which we may safely draw is that public 
feeling encouraged such representations. It is a symp- 
tom of the religious temper of the times, that the same 
public which compelled the Deist to wear the'm'as^k~of 

31 G Tendencies of Heligious Thought in England, 

' solemn sneer' in his assaults upon Christian doctrine, 
required no such disguise or reserve when the ministers 
of the Church were spoken of. Nor does the evidence 
consist in a few stray extracts from here and there a Deist 
or a cynic, it is the tone of all the popuhir writers of 
tliat time. The unedifying lives of the clergy are a 
standard theme of sarcasm, and continue to be so till 
a late period in the century, when a gradual change 
may be observed in the language of literature. This 
antipathy to the clergy visible in the Hanoverian 
period, admits of comparison with that vein which 
colours the popular songs of the AVickliflfite era. In 
the 15th century, the satire is not indiscriminate. 
It is against the monks and friars, the bishops and 
cardinals, as distinct from the ' poor persoun of atoun.' 
Its point against the organized hypocrisy of the Papal 
Churchmen is given it by the picture of the ideal 
minister of ' Christe's Gospel' which always accom- 
panies the burlesque. In the i8th century the 
license of satire goes much beyond this. In the early 
part of the century we find clerical satire observing to 
some extent a similar discrimination. The Tory 
parson is libelled always with an ostentatious reserve 
of commendation for the more enlightened and liberal 
Hanoverian, the staunch maintainer of the Protestant 
succession. This is the tone of the Independent Whig, 
one of the numerous weekly sheets called into being 
in imitation of the Tatler. It was started in 1720, 
taking for its exclusive theme the Clergy, whom it was 
its avowed object to abuse. A paper came out every 
Wednesday. It was not a newspaper, and does not 
deal in libel or personalities, hardly ever mentioning 
a name, very rarely quoting a fact, but dilating in ge- 
neral terms upon clerical ignorance and bigotry. This 
dull and worthless trash not onl}^ had a considerable 
circulation at the time, but w^as reprinted, and passed 
through several editions in a collected form. The 
Bishops talked of prohibiting it,but,onsecond thoughts, 

j6S8— 1750. 317 

acted more wisely in taking no notice of it. The only 
part of the kingdom into which it could not find 
entrance was the Isle of Man, where the saintly 
Wilson combined with apostolic virtues much of the 
old episcopal claims over the consciences of his flock. 
The LuJcpendent Whig, though manifestly written by 
a man of no religion, yet finds it necessary to keep up 
the appearance of encouraging the ' better sort' of 
clergy, and affecting to despise only the political 
priests, the meddling chaplain, the preferment-hunter, 
the toper, who is notable at bowls, and dexterous at 

As we advance towards the middle of the century, 
and the French influence begins to mingle with pure 
English Deism, the spirit of contemj^t^preads till it 
involves all priests of alf felTgioiis. The language 
now is, ' The established clergy in every country are 
generally the greatest enemies to all kinds of refor- 
mation, as they are generally the most narrow-minded 
and most worthless set of men in every country. For- 
tunately for the present times, the wings of clerical 
power and influence are pretty close trimmed, so that 
I do not think their opposition to the proposed re- 
formations could be of any great consequence, more of 
the people being inclined to despise them, than to 
follow them blindly.' (Burgh, Political Disquisitio?is, 
1774.) It was no longer for their vices that the 
clergy were reviled, for the philosopher now had come 
to understand that ' their virtues were more dangerous' 
to society. Strictness of life did but increase the dislike 
with which the clergyman was regarded ; his morality 
was but double-dyed hypocrisy ; religious language 
from his mouth was methodistical cant. Nor did the 
orthodox attempt to struggle with this sentiment. 
They yielded to it, and adopted for their maxim of 
conduct, ' surtout point de zele.' Their sermons and 
pamphlets were now directed against ' Enthusiasm,' 
which became the bugbear of that time. Every 

318 Tendencies of Heligioiis Thougld in England, 

clergyman, who wished to retain any influence over 
the minds of his parishioners, was anxious to vindi- 
cate himself from all suspicion of enthusiasm. When 
lie had set himself right in this respect, he endea- 
voured to do the same good office for the Apostles. 
But if he were not an ' enthusiast,' he was an ' im- 
postor.' For every clergyman of the Church had 
against him an antecedent presumption as a ' priest.' 
It was now well understood, by all enlightened men, 
that the whole sacerdotal brood were but a set of im- 
postors, who lived by deceiving the people, and who 
had invented religion for their own benefit. Natural 
religion needed no ' priests' to uphold it ; it was 
obvious to every understanding, and could maintain 
itself in the world without any confraternity sworn to 
the secret. 

Again came a change. As the Methodist move- 
ment gradually leavened the mass beneath, zeal came 
again into credit. The old Wickliffite, or Puritan, 
distinction is revived between the ' Gospel preachers' 
and the ' dumb dogs.' The antipathy to priests was 
no longer promiscuous. Popular indignation was 
reserved for the fox-hunter and the pluralist ; the 
Hophni-and-Phinehas generation ; the men, who are 
described as ' careless of dispensing the bread of life 
to their flocks, preaching a carnal and soul-benumbing 
morality, and trafficking in the souls of men by re- 
ceiving money for discharging the pastoral office in 
parishes where they did not so much as look on the 
faces of the people more than once a year.' In the 
well-known satire of Cowper, it is no longer irreligious 
mocking at sacred things under pretence of a virtuous 
indignation. It becomes again what it was before 
the Reformation — an earnest feeling, a religious sen- 
timent, the moral sense of man ; Huss or Savonarola 
appealing to the written morality of the Gospel 
against the practical immorality consecrated by the 

i688— 1750. 319 

Sometliins: too of the old anti-liierarcliical feelino" 
aC-!ompanies this revival of the influence of the in- 
kiior clergy; a faint reflection of the bitter hatred 
T\inv3h the Lollard had borne to Pope and Cardinal, or 
tii: Puritan to ' Prelacy.' The utility of the episco- 
pal and capitular dignities continued to be questioned 
long after the evangelical parish pastor had re-estab- 
lished himself in the affections of his flock, and 1832 
saw the cathedrals go down amid the general appro- 
bation of all classes. In the earlier half of the cen- 
tury the reverse was the case. The boorish country 
parson was the man whose order was despised then, and 
his utility questioned. The Freethinkers themselves 
could not deny that the bench and the stalls were 
graced by some whose wit, reputation, and learning 
would have made them considerable in any profession. 
The higher clergy had with them the town and the 
court, the country clergy sided with the squires. The 
mass of the clergy were not in sympathy, either politi- 
cally or intellectually, with their ecclesiastical superiors. 
The Tory fox-hunter in the Freeholder (No. 22) thinks 
* the neighbouring shire very happy for having scarce 
a Presbyterian in it except the Bishop ;' while Hickes 
' thanks Grod that the main body of the clergy are in 
their hearts Jacobites.' The bishops of George the 
Second deserved the respect they met with. At no 
period in the history of our Church has the ecclesi- 
astical patronage of the crown been better directed 
than while it was secretly dispensed by Queen Caroline. 
For a Ijrief period, liberality and cultivation of mind 
were passports to promotion in the Church. Nor 
were politics a hindrance ; the queen earnestly pressed 
an English see upon Bishop Wilson. The corruption 
which began with the Duke of Newcastle (1746) 
gradually deepened in the subsequent reign, as poli- 
tical orthodoxy and connexion were made the tests, 
and the borough-holders divided the dignities of the 
Church among their adherents. 

320 Tendencies of jReligious ThoiifjlLt in England, 

Of an age so solid and practical it was not to be 
expected that its theology and metaphysics would 
mount into the more remote spheres of abstraction. 
Their line of argument was, as has been seen, regulated 
b}' the necessity they laid themselves under of appeal- 
ing to sound sense and common reason. But not only 
was their treatment of their topic popular, the motive 
of their writings was an immediate practical necessity. 
Bishops and deans might be made for merit, but it 
was not mere literary merit, classical scliolarship, or 
University distinction. The Deist ical controversy did 
not _origiiiate, like some other controversies which 
have made much noise in their time, in speculative 
fimcy^n the leisure of the cloister, or the college. It 
had a liv ing practical interest in its complication witli 
the c|uestions of the day. The endeavour of the 
moralists and divines of the period to rationalize re- 
ligion was in fact an effort to preserve the practical 
principles of moi-al and religious conduct for society. 
It was not an academical disputation, or a contest of 
wits for superiority, but a life and death struggle of 
religious and moral feeling to maintain itself What 
the}^ felt they had to contend against w^as moral de- 
pravity', and not theological error; they wrote less in 
the interest of truth than in that of virtue. A 
general relaxation of manners, in all classes of society, 
is universally affirmed to be characteristic of that time ; 
and theology and philosophy applied themselves to com- 
bat this. A striking instance of this is Bishop Berkeley, 
the only metaphysical writer of the time, besides 
Locke, who has maintained a veiy high name in phi- 
losophical history. He forms a solitary — it might 
seem a singular — exception to what has been said of 
the prosaic and unmetaphysical character of this mo- 
ralising age. The two peculiar metaphysical notions 
which are connected with Berkeley's name, and which, 
though he did not originate, he propounded with a 
novelty and distinctness equal to originality, have 

i688— 1750. 3.21 

always ranked as being on the extreme verge of ra- 
tional speculation, if not actually within the region of 
unfruitful paradox and metaphj^sical romance. These 
two memorable speculations, as propounded by Berke- 
ley in the Alciphron, come before us not as a Utopian 
dream, or an ingenious play of reason, but interwoven 
in a polemic against the prevailing unbelief. They 
are made to bend to a most practical purpose, and are 
Berkeley's contributions to the Deistical controversy. 
The character of the man, too, was more in harmony 
with the plain utilitarian spirit of his time than with 
his own refining intellect. He was not a closet- 
thinker, like his master Malebranche, but a man of 
the world and of society, inquisitive and well informed 
in many branches of practical science. Practical 
schemes, social and philanthropic, occupied his mind 
more than abstract thinking. In pushing the received 
metaphysical creed to its paradoxical consequences, as 
much as in prescribing ' tar-water,' he was thinking 
only of an immediate ' benefit to mankind.' He seems 
to have thought nothing of his argument until he had 
brought it to bear on the practical questions of the da} . 
Were the ' corruption of manners' merely the com- 
plaint of one party or set of writers, a cry of factious 
Puritanism, or of men who were at war with society, 
like the Conjuring clergy, or of a few isohitecl indi- 
viduals of superior piety, like William Law, it w^ould 
be easily explicable. The ' world' at all times, and in 
all countries, can be described with truth as ' lying in 
wickedness,' and the rebuke of the preacher of righte- 
ousness is equally needed in every age. There cannot 
be a darker picture than that drawn by the Fathers 
of the 3rd century of the morals of the Christians 
in their time. (See passages in Jewel's Apology^ The 
rigorous moralist, heathen or Christian, can always 
point in sharp contrast the vices and the belief of 
mankind. But, after making every allowance for the 
exaggeration of religious rhetoric, and the querulous- 


322 Tendencies of HeJiglous Thougld in England, 

ness of defeated parties, there seems to remain some 
real evidence for ascribing to that age a more than 
usual moral licence and contempt of external restraints. 
It is the concurrent testimony of men of all parties, it is 
the general strain of the most sensible and worldly 
divines, prosperous men who lived with this very world 
the}^ censure, men whose code of morals was not large, 
nor their standard exacting. To attempt the inquiry 
what specific evils were meant by the general expres- 
sions ' decay of religion' and ' corruption of manners,' 
— the stereotype phrases of the time — is not within the 
limits of this paper. No historian, as far as I am 
aware, has attemj)ted this examination ; all have been 
content to render, without valuation, the charges as 
they find them. I shall content myself with producing 
here one statement of contemporary opinion on this 
point ; for which purpose I select a layman, David 
Hartley. [Observations on Man, vol. ii. p. 441.) 

' There are six things which seem more especially 
to threaten ruin and dissolution to the present States 
of Christendom. 

* ist. The great growth of atheism and infidelity, 
•particularly amongst the governing parts of these 

* 2nd. The open and abiindoned lewdness to which 
great numbers of both sexes, especially in the high 
ranks of life, have given themselves up. 

' 3rd. The sordid and avowed self-interest, which is 
almost the sole motive of action in those who are 
concerned in the administration of public afiairs. 

' 4th. The licentiousness and contempt of every 
kind of authority, divine or human, which is so noto- 
rious in inferiors of all ranks. 

' 5th. The great worldly-mindedness of the clergy, 
and their gross neglect in the discharge of their proper 

' 6th. The carelessness and infatuation of parents 
and magistrates with respect to the education of 

1688—1750. 323 

3^ontli, and the consequent en.vly corruption of the 
rising generation. 

' All these things have evident mutual connexions 
and influences ; and as they all seem likely to increase 
from time to time, so it can scarce be doubted by a 
considerate man, whether he be a religious one or no, 
but that they will, sooner or later, bring on a total dis- 
solution of all the forms of government that subsist 
at present in the Christian countries of Europe.' 

Though there is entire unanimity as to the fact 
of the prevailing corruption, there is the greatest 
diversity of opinion as to its cause. Each party is 
found in turn attributing it to the neglect or disbelief 
of the abstract propositions in which its own particular 
creed is expressed. The Nonjurors and Higli- 
Oliurchmen attribute it to the Toleration Act and the 
latitudinarianism allowed in high places. One of the 
very popular pamphlets of the year 1721 was a fast- 
sermon preached before the Lord Mayor by Edmund 
Massey, in which he enumerates the evils of the time, 
and affirms that they ' are justly chargeable upon 
the corrupt explication of those words of our Sa- 
viour, ' My kingdom is not of this world' — i.e., upon 
Hoadly's celebrated sermon. The latitudinarian clergy 
divide the blame between the Freethinkers and the 
Nonjurors. The Freethinkers point to the hypocrisy 
of the Clergy, who, they say, lost all credit with the 
people by having preached ' passive obedience' up to 
J 688, and then suddenly finding out that it was not a 
scriptural truth. The Nonconformists lay it to the 
enforcement of conformity and unscriptui-al terms of 
communion ; while the Catholics rejoice to see in it 
che Protestant Reformation at last bearing its natural 
fruit. Warburton characteristically attributes it to 
the bestowal of * preferment' by the Walpole adminis- 
tration. (Dedication to Lord Mansfield, IForks, ii. 268.) 
The power of preferment Avas not under-estimated 
then. George II. maintained to the last that the 

Y 2 

3:24 Tendencies of Beligious Thought in England, 

growth of Methodism was entirely owing to ministers 
not having listened to his advice, and ' made White- 
field a bishop.' Lastly, that every one may have 
his say, a professor of moral philosophy in our day 
is found attributing the same facts to the prevalence 
of ' that low view of morality which rests its rules 
upon consequences merely.' 

' The reverence which,' says Dr. Whewell, ' handed 
down by the tradition of ages of moral and religious 
teaching, had hitherto protected the accustomed forms 
of moral good, was gradually removed. Vice, and 
crime, and sin, ceased to be words that terrified the 
popular speculator. Virtue, and goodness, and purity 
were no longer things which he looked up to with 
mute respect. He ventured to lay a sacrilegious 
hand even upon these hallowed shapes. He saw that 
when this had been dared by audacious theorists, 
those objects, so long venerated, seemed to have no 
power of punishing the bold intruder. There was a 
scene like that which occurred when the barbarians 
broke into the Eternal City. At first, in spite of 
themselves, they were awed by the divine aspect of 
the ancient magistrates ; but when once their leader 
had smitten one of these venerable figures with im- 
punity, the coarse and violent mob rushed onwards, 
and exultingly mingled all in one common destruction.' 
{Moral Fhilosophg in England, p. 79.) 

The actual sequence of cause and effect seems, if it 
be not presumptuous to say so, to be as nearly as 
possible inverted in this eloquent statement. The 
licentiousness of talk and manners was not produced 
by the moral doctrines promulgated : but the doctrine 
of moral consequences was had recourse to by the 
divines and morahsts as the most likely remedy of the 
prevailing licentiousness. It was an attempt, well- 
meant but not successful, to arrest the wanton pro- 
ceedings of ' the coarse and violent mob.' Good men 
saw mth alarm, almost with despair, that what they 

i688 — 1750. 325 

said in the obsolete language of religious teaching was 
not listened to, and tried to address the age in plain 
and uuniistakeable terms. The new theory of conse- 
quences was not introduced by ' men of leisure ' to 
supplant and overthrow a nobler and purer view of 
religion and morality, it was a plain fact of religion 
stated in plain language, in the hope of deterring the 
wicked from his wickedness. It was the address of 
the Old Testament prophet, ' ^Hiy will ye die, 
house of Israel?' That there is a God and moral 
Governor, and that obedience to His commands is 
necessary to secure our interests in this world and the 
next — if any form of rational belief can control the 
actions of a rational being, it is surely this. On the 
rationalist hypothesis, the morality of consequences 
ought to produce the most salutary effects on the 
general behaviour of mankind. This obligation of 
obedience, the appeal to our desire of our own welfare, 
was the substance of the practical teaching of the age. 
It was stated with great cogency of reasoning, and 
enforced with every variety of illustration. Put its 
proof at the lowest, let it be granted that they did 
not succeed in removing all the objections of the 
Deistical writers, it must, at least, be allowed that 
they showed, to the satisfaction of all prudent and 
thinkmg men, that it was safer to believe Christianity 
true than not. The obligation to practice in point of 
prudence was as perfect as though the proof had been 
demonstrative. And what was the surprising result ? 
That the more they demonstrated the less people be- 
lieved. As Ihe proof of morality was elaborated and 
strengthened, the more it was disregarded, the more 
ungodliness and profaneness flourished and grew. 
This is certainly not what we should antecedently 
expect. If, as Dr. Whewell assumes, and the whole 
doctrinaire school with him, the speculative belief of 
an age determines its moral character, that should be 
the j)urest epoch where the morality of consequences 


326 Tendencies of Religious Tliougld in England^ 

is placed in the strongest light — when it is most con 
vincingly set before men that their present and future 
welfare depends on how they act ; that ' all we enjoy, 
and great part of what we suffer, is placed in our 
own hands.' 

Experience, however, the testimony of history, dis- 
plays to us a result the very reverse. The experi- 
ment of the i8th century may surely be considered 
as a decisive one on this point. The failure of a pru- 
dential system of ethics as a restraining force upon 
society was perceived, or felt in the way of reaction, 
by the Evangelical and Methodist generation of 
teachers who succeeded the Hanoverian divines. So 
far their perception was just. They went on to infer 
that, because the circulation of one system of belief 
had been inefficacious, they should try the effect of 
inculcating a set of truths as widely remote from the 
former as possible. Because legal preaching, as they 
phrased it, had failed, they would essay Gospel preach- 
ing. The j)reaching of justification by works had not 
the power to check wickedness, therefore justification 
by faith, the doctrine of the Reformation, was the 
only saving truth. This is not meant as a complete 
account of the origin of the Evangelical school. It is 
only one point of view — that point which connects the 
school with the general line of thought this paper has 
been pursuing. Their doctrine of conversion by 
supernatural influence must on no account be for- 
gotten. Yet it appears that they tli ought, that the 
channel of this supernatural influence was, in some 
way or other, preaching : — preaching, too, not as 
rhetoric, but as the annunciation of a specific doctrine 
— the Gospel. They certainly insisted ' on the heart ' 
being touched, and that the Spirit only had the power 
savingly to affect the heart ; but they acted as though 
this were done by an appeal to the reason, and scorn- 
fully rejected the idea of religious education. 

It should also be remarked that even tbe divines of 

]688 — 1750. 327 

the Hanoverian school were not wholly blind to some 
flaw in their theory, and to the practical inefficacy of 
their doctrine. Not that they underrated the force 
of their demonstrations. As has been already said, 
the greater part of them over-estimated their convinc- 
ingness ; but they could not but see that they did not, 
in fact, convince. When this was forced upon their 
observation, when they perceived that an a priori de- 
monstration of religion might be placed before a man, 
and that he did not see its force, then, inconsequent 
with their own theory, they had recourse to the notion 
of moral culpability. If a person refused to admit 
the evidence for revelation, it was because he did not 
examine it with a dispassionate mind. His under- 
standing was biassed by his wishes ; some illicit pas- 
sion he was resolved on gratifying, but which prudence, 
forsooth, would not have allowed him to gratify so 
long as he continued to believe in a future judgment. 
The wish that there tvere no God suggested the thought 
that there is not. Speculative unbelief is thus as- 
serted to be a consequence of a bad heart : it is the 
ground upon which we endeavour to prove to our- 
selves and others that the indulgence of our passions 
is consistent with a rational prudence. As levelled 
against an individual opponent, this is a poor contro- 
versial shift. Many of the Deists were men of worth 
and probity ; of none of them is anything known 
which would make them worse men than the average 
of their class in life. Mr. Chichester {Deism compared 
ivith Christianity, 1821, vol. iii. p. 220) says ' Tindal 
was infamous for vice in general ;' but I have not 
been able to trace his authority for the assertion. As 
an imputation, not against individual unbelievers, but 
against the competency of reason in general, it may 
be true, but is quite inconsistent with the general hypo- 
thesis of the school of reasoners who brought it. If 
reason be liable to an influence which warps it, then 
there is required some force which shall keep this in- 

328 Tendencies of BeIi(/ious Thought in England, 

fluence nnder, and reason alone is no longer the all- 
sufficient judge of truth. In this way we should be 
forced back to the old orthodox doctrine of the chronic 
impotence of reason, superinduced upon it by the Fall ; 
a doctrine which the reigning orthodoxy had tacitly 

In the Catholic theory the feebleness of Reason is 
met half-way and made good by the authority of the 
Church. When the Protestants threw off this 
.A authority, they did not assign to Reason what they 
took from the Church, but to Scripture, Calvin did 
not shrink from saying that Scripture ' shone suffici- 
ently by its own light.' As long as this could be 
kept to, the Protestant theory of belief was whole and 
sound. At least it was as sound as the Catholic. In 
both, Reason, aided by spiritual illumination, performs 
the subordinate function of recognising the supreme 
authority of the Church, and of the Bible, respectively. 
Time, learned controversy, and abatement of zeal 
drove the Protestants generally from the hardy but 
irrational assertion of Calvin. Every foot of ground 
that Scripture lost was gained by one or other of the 
three substitutes : Church-authority, the Spirit, or 
Reason. Church -authority was essayed by the Lau- 
dian divines, but was soon found untenable, for on 
that looting it was found impossible to justify the 
Reformation and the breach with Rome. The Spirit 
then came into favour along with Independency. But 
it was still more quickly discovered that on such a 
basis only discord and disunion could be reared. There 
remained to be tried Common Reason, carefully dis- 
tinguished from recondite learning, and not based on 
metaphysical assumptions. To apply this instrument 
to the contents of Revelation was the occupation of 
the early half of the eighteenth century ; with what 
success has been seen. In the latter part of the cen- 
tury the same Common Reason was applied to the. 
external evidences. But here the method fails in a 

f688— 1750. 329 ^ 

first requisite — universality ; for even the sliallowest 
array of historical proof requires some book-learning 
to apprehend. Further than this, the Lardner and 
Paley school could not complete their proof satisfacto- 
rily, inasmuch as the materials for the investigation 
of the first and second centuries of the Christian era 
were not at hand. 

Such appears to be the past history of the Theory 
of Belief in the Church of England. Whoever would 
take the religious literature of the present day as a 
whole, and endeavour to make out clearly on what 
basis Revelation is supposed by it to rest, whether on 
Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self- 
evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the 
four, or some of them, and in what proportions, would 
probably find that he had undertaken a perplexing but 
not altogether profitless inquiry. 



TT is a strange, though familiar fact, that great 
-^ differences of opinion exist respecting the Interpre- 
tation of Scripture. All Christians receive the Old 
and New Testament as sacred writings, but they are 
not agreed about the meaning which they attribute 
to them. The book itself remains as at the first ; the 
commentators seem rather to reflect the changing 
atmosphere of the world or of the Church. Different 
individuals or bodies of Christians have a different 
point of view, to which their interpretation is narrowed 
or made to conform. It is assumed, as natural and 
necessary, that the same words will present one idea 
to the mind of the Protestant, another to the Roman 
Catholic ; one meaning to the German, another to the 
English interpreter. The Ultramontane or Anglican 
divine is not supposed to be impartial in his treatment 
of passages which aftbrd an apparent foundation for 
the doctrine of purgatory or the primacy of St. Peter 
on the one hand, or the three orders of clergy and 
the divine origin of episcopacy on the other. It is a 
received view with many, that the meaning of the 
Bible is to be defined by that of the Prayer-book; 
while there are others who interpret ' the Bible and 
the Bible only' with a silent reference to the traditions 
of the Reformation. Philosophical differences are in 
the background, into which the differences about 
Scripture also resolve themselves. They seem to run 

Oil the Interpretation of Scripture. 331 

up at last into a difference of opinion respecting Eeve- 
lation itself — whether given beside the human faculties 
or through them, whether an interruj^tion of the laws 
of nature or their perfection and fulfilment. 

This effort to pull the authority of Scripture in 
different directions is not peculiar to our own day ; 
the same phenomenon appears in the past history of 
the Church. At the Eeformation, in the Nicene or 
Pelagian times, the New Testament was the ground 
over which men fought ; it might also be compared 
to the armoury which furnished them with weapons. 
Opposite aspects of the truth which it contains were 
appropriated by different sides. 'Justified by faith 
without works' and 'justified by faith as well as works' 
are equally Scriptural expressions ; the one has become 
the formula of Protestants, the other of Roman 
Catholics. The fifth and ninth chapters of the 
Pomans, single verses such as i Corinthians iii. 15, 
John iii. 3, still bear traces of many a life-long strife 
in the pages of commentators. The difference of 
interpretation which prevails among ourselves is partly 
traditional, that is to say, inherited from the con- 
troversies of former ages. The use made of Scripture, 
by Fathers of the Church, as well as by Luther and 
Calvin, affects our idea of its meaning at the present 

Another cause of the multitude of interpretations 
is the growth or progress of the human mind itself. 
Modes of interpreting vary as time goes on ; they 
partake of the general state of literature or knowledge. 
It has not been easily or at once that mankind have 
learned to realize the character of sacred writings — 
they seem almost necessarily to veil themselves from 
human eyes as circumstances change ; it is the old 
age of the world only that has at length understood 
its childhood. (Or rather perhaps is beginning to 
understand it, and learning to make allowance for its 
own deficiency of knowledge ; for the infancy of the 

332 On ike Interpretation of Scripture. 

human race, as of tlie individual, affords but few 
indications of the workings of the mind within.) 
More often than we suppose, the great sayings and 
doings upon the earth, ' thoughts that breathe and 
words that burn,' are lost in a sort of chaos to the 
apprehension of those that come after. Much of past 
history is dimly seen and receives only a conventional 
interpretation, even when the memorials of it remain. 
There is a time at which the freshness of early 
literature is lost ; mankind have turned rhetoricians, 
and no longer write or feel in the spirit which created 
it. In this unimaginative period in which sacred 
or ancient writings are partially unintelligible, many 
methods have been taken at different times to adapt 
the ideas of the past to the wants of the present. 
One age has wandered into the flowery paths of 

* In pious meditation fancy fed.' 

Another has straitened the liberty of the Gospel by a 
rigid application of logic, the former being a method 
which was at first more naturally applied to the Old 
Testament, the latter to the New. Both methods of 
interpretation, the mystical and logical, as they may 
be termed, have been practised on the Vedas and the 
Koran, as well as on the Jewish and Christian Scrip- 
tures, the true glory and note of divinity in these 
latter being not that they have hidden mysterious 
or double meanings, but a simple and universal one, 
which is beyond them and will survive them. Since 
the revival of literature, interpreters have not unfre- 
quently fallen into error of another kind from a 
pedantic and misplaced use of classical learning ; the 
minute examination of words often withdrawing the 
mind from more important matters. A tendency may 
be observed within the last century to clothe systems 
of philosophy in the phraseology of Scripture. But 
' new wine cannot thus be put into old bottles.* 

On the Infeiyretation of Scripiure. 333 

Thougli rouglily distiiiguisliable by different ages, 
these modes or tendencies also exist together ; the 
remains of all of them may be remarked in some of 
the popular commentaries of our own day. 

More common than any of these methods, and not 
peculiar to any age, is that which may be called by 
way of distinction the rhetorical one. The tendency 
to exaggerate or amplify the meaning of simple words 
for the sake of edification may indeed have a practical 
use in sermons, the object of which is to awaken not 
so much the intellect as the heart and conscience. 
Spiritual food, like natural, may require to be of a 
certain bulk to nourish the human mind. But this 
' tendency to edification' has had an unfortunate 
influence on the interpretation of Scripture. For the 
preacher almost necessarily oversteps the limits of 
actual knowledge, his feelings overflow with the subject; 
even if he have the power, he has seldom the time for 
accurate thought or inquiry. And in the course of years 
spent in writing, perhaps, without study, he is apt to per- 
suade himself, if not others, of the truth of his own 
repetitions. The trivial consideration of making a 
discourse of sufficient length is often a reason why he 
overlays the words of Christ and his Apostles with 
commonplaces. The meaning of the text is not 
always the object which he has in view, liut some 
moral or religious lesson which he has found it 
necessary to append to it ; some cause which he is 
pleading, some error of the day which he has to com- 
bat. And while in some passages he hardly dares to 
trust himself with the full force of Scripture (Matthew 
V. 34; ix. 13 ; xix. 31; Acts V. 29), in others be extracts 
more from words than they really imply (Matthew 
xxii. 21 ; xxviii. 20 ; Romans xiii. i ; &c.), being more 
eager to guard against the abuse of some precept than 
to enforce it, attenuating or adapting the utterance of 
prophecy to the requirements or to the measure of 
modern times. Any one who has ever written sermons 

334 On the Interior etation of Scripture. 

is aware how hard it is to apply Scripture to the 
wants of his^i^arersjand a| the^ 
its meaning. 

The phenomenon which has been described in the 
preceding pages is so familiar, and yei so extraordinary, 
that it requires an effort of thought to appreciate its 
true nature. We do not at once see the absurdity of 
the same words having many senses, or free our minds 
from the illusion that the Apostle or Evangelist must 
jiave written with a reference to the creeds or con- 
troversies or circumstances of other times. Let it be 
considered, then, that this extreme variety of interpre- 
tation is found to exist in the case of no other book, 
but of the Scriptures only. Other writings are pre- 
served to us in dead languages — Greek, Latin, Oriental, 
some of them in fragments, all of them originally in 
manuscript. It is true that difficulties arise in the 
explanation of these writings, especially in the most 
ancient, from our imperfect acquaintance with the 
meaning of words, or the defectiveness of copies, or the 
want of some historical or geographical information 
which is required to present an event or character in 
its true bearing. In comparison with the wealth and 
light of modern literature, our knowledge of Greek 
classical authors, for example, may be called imperfect 
and shadowy. Some of them have another sort of 
difficulty arising from subtlety or abruptness in the 
use of language ; in lyric poetry especially, and some 
of the earlier prose, the greatness of the thought 
struggles with the stammering lips. It may be 
observed that all these difficulties occur also in 
Scripture ; they are found equally in sacred and pro- 
fane literature. But the meaning of classical authors 
is known with comparative certainty ; and the inter- 
pretation of them seems to rest on a scientific basis. 
It is not, therefore, to philological or historical diffi- 
culties that the greater part of the uncertainty in the 
interpretation of Scripture is to be attributed. No 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 335 

ignorance of Hebrew or Greek is sufficient to account 
for it. Even the Vedas and the Zendavesta, though 
beset by obscurities of language probably greater than 
are found in any portion of the Bible, are interpreted, 
at least by European scholars, according to fixed rules, 
and beginning to be clearly understood. 

To bring the parallel home, let us imagine the 
remains of some well-known Greek author, as Plato 
or Sophocles, receiving the same treatment at the 
hands of the world which the Scriptures have expe- 
rienced. The text of such an author, when first printed 
by Aldus or Stephens, would be gathered from the im- 
perfect or mis written copies which fell in the way of 
the editors ; after awhile older and better manuscripts 
come to light, and the power of using and estimating 
the value of manuscripts is greatly improved. We may 
suppose, further, that the readings of these older copies 
do not always conform to some received canons of 
criticism. Up to the year 1550, or 1624, alterations, 
often proceeding on no principle, have been introduced 
into the text ; but now a stand is made — an edition 
which appeared at the latter of the two dates just 
mentioned is invested with authority ; this authorized 
text is ajy?(?ce de re-nstauce against innovation. Many 
reasons are given why it is better to have bad readings 
to which the world is accustomed than good ones 
which are novel and strange — why the later manu- 
scripts of Plato or Sophocles are often to be preferred 
to earlier ones — why it is useless to remove imperfec- 
tions where perfect accuracy is not to be attained. A 
fear of disturbing the critical canons which have come 
down from former ages is, however, suspected to be 
one reason for the opposition. And custom and pre- 
judice, and tlie nicety of the subject, and all the argu- 
ments which are intelligible to the many against the 
truth, which is intelligible only to the few, are thrown 
into the scale to preserve the works of Plato or 
Sophocles as nearly as possible in the received text. 

336 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

Leaving the text we proceed to interpret and trans- 
late. The meaning of Greek words is known with 
tolerable certainty ; and the grammar of the Grreek 
language has been minutely analysed both in ancient 
and modern times. Yet the interpretation of Sophocles 
is tentative and uncertain ; it seems to vary from age 
to age : to some the great tragedian has appeared to 
embody in his choruses certain theological or moral 
ideas of his own age or country ; there are others who 
find there an allegory of the Christian religion or of 
the history of modern Europe. Several schools of 
critics have commented on his works ; to the English- 
man he has presented one meaning, to the Frenchman 
another, to the German a third ; the interpretations 
have also differed with the philosophical systems which 
the interpreters espoused. To one tlie same words 
have appeared to bear a moral, to another a symbolical 
meaning ; a third is determined wholly by the 
authority of old commentators ; while there is a dis- 
position to condemn the scholar who seeks to interpret 
Sophocles from himself only, and with reference to the 
ideas and beliefs of the age in which he lived. And 
the error of such an one is attributed not only to some 
intellectual but even to a moral obliquity which pre- 
vents his seeing the true meaning. 

It would be tedious to follow into details the absur- 
dity which has been supposed. By such methods it 
would be truly said that Sophocles or Plato may be 
made to mean anything. It would seem as if some 
Novum Organum were needed to lay down rules of in- 
terpretation for ancient literature. Still one other 
supposition has to be introduced which will appear, 
23erliaps, more extravagant than any which have pre- 
ceded. Conceive then that these modes of interpreting 
Sophocles had existed for ages ; that great institutions 
and interests had become interwoven with them, and 
in some degree even the honour of nations and churches 
— is it too much to say that in such a case they would 

O/i the Interpretation of Scrqjture. 337 

be clianged with difficulty, and that they would con- 
tinue to be maintained long after critics and philoso- 
phers had seen that they were indefensible ? 

No one who has a Christian feeling would place 
classical on a level with sacred literature ; and there 
are other particulars in which the preceding comparison 
fails, as, for example, the style and subject. But, how- 
ever different the subject, although the interpretation 
of Scripture requires 'a vision and faculty divine,' or at 
least a moral and religious interest which is not needed 
in the study of a Greek poet or philosopher, yet in what \ 
may be termed the externals of interpretation, that is 1 
to say, the meaning of words, the connexion of sen- '■ 
tences, the settlement of the text, the evidence of 
facts, the same rules apply to the Old and New \ 
Testaments as to other books. And the figure is no 
exaggeration of the erring fancy of men in the use of 
Scripture, or of the tenacity with which they cling to 
the interpretations of other times, or of the arguments 
by which they maintain them. All the resources of 
knowledge may be turned into a means not of dis- 
covering the true rendering, but of upholding a 
received one. Grrammar appears to start from an 
independent point of view, yet inquiries into the use 
of the article or the preposition have been observed to 
wind round into a defence of some doctrine. Rhetoric 
ot\en magnifies its own want of taste into the design 
of inspiration. Logic (that other mode of rhetoric) is 
apt to lend itself to the illusion, by stating erroneous 
explanations with a clearness which is mistaken for 
truth. ' Metaphysical aid ' carries away the common 
understanding into a region where it must blindly 
follow. Learning obscures as well as illustrates ; it 
heaps up chaff when there is no more wheat. These 
are some of the ways in which the sense of Scripture 
has become confused, by the help of tradition, in the 
course of ages, under a load of commentators. 

The book itself remains as at the first unchanged 


338 On the Lilerjoretation of Scrljjiare. 

amid the changing interpretations of it. The office of 
the interpreter is not to add another, but to recover 
the original one ; the meaning, that is, of the words 
as they struck on the ears or flashed before the eyes 
of those who first heard and read them. He has to 
transfer himself to another age ; to imagine that he is 
a disciple of Christ or Paul ; to disengage himself from 
all that follows. The history of Christendom is nothing 
to him ; but only the scene at Galilee or Jerusalem, 
the handful of believers who gathered themselves to- 
gether at Ephesus, or Corinth, or Rome. His eye is 
fixed on the form of one like the Son of man, or of the 
Prophet who was girded with a garment of camel's 
hair, or of the Apostle who had a thorn in the fiesh. 
The greatness of the Roman Empire is nothing to 
him ; it is an inner not an outer world that he is 
striving to restore. All the after- thoughts of theology 
are nothing to him ; they are not the true lights 
which light him in difficult places. His concern is 
with a book in which, as in other ancient writings, are 
some things of which we are ignorant ; which defect 
of our knowledge cannot however be supplied by the 
conjectures of fathers or divines. The simple words 
of that book he tries to preserve absolutely pure from 
the refinements or distinctions of later times. He 
acknowledges that they are fragmentary, and would 
suspect himself, if out of fragments he were able to 
create a well-rounded system or a continuous history. 
The greater part of his learning is a knowledge of the 
text itself; he has no delight in the voluminous lite- 
rature which has overgrown it. He has no theory of 
interpretation ; a few rules guarding against common 
errors are enough for him. His object is to read 
Scripture like any other book, with a real interest and 
not merely a conventional one. He wants to be able to 
open his eyes and see or imagine things as they truly are. 
Nothing would be more likely to restore a natural 
feeling on this subject than a history of the Interpre- 

On the Iiiterjjretation of Scrijjture. 339 

tatlon of Scripture. It would take us back to the 
beg-innmg ; it would present in one view the causes 
which have darkened the meaning of words in the 
course of ages ; it would clear away the remains of 
dogmas, systems, controversies, which are encrusted 
upon them. It would show us the ' erring fancy' of 
interpreters assuming sometimes to have the Spirit of 
God Himself, yet unable to pass beyond the limits of 
their own age, and with a judgment often biassed by 
parly. Great names there have been among them, 
names of men who may be reckoned also among the 
benefactors of the human race, yet comparatively few 
who have understood the thoughts of other times, or 
vvdio have bent their minds to ' interrogate' the mean- 
ing of words. Such a work would enable us to separate 
the elements of doctrine and tradition with vvhicli the 
meaning of Scripture is encumbered in our own day. 
It would mark the different epochs of interpretation 
from the time when the living word was in process of 
becoming a book to Origen and Tertullian, from 
Origen to Jerome and Augustine, from Jerome and 
Augustine to Abelard and Acjuinas ; again making a 
new beginning with the revival of literature, irom 
Erasmus, the father of Biblical criticism in more 
recent times, with Calvin and Beza for his immediate 
successors, through Grotius and Hammond, down to 
De Wette and Meier, our own contemporaries. We 
should see how the mystical interpretation of Scripture 
originated in the Alexandrian age ; how it blended 
with the logical and rhetorical ; how both received 
weight and currency from their use in support of the 
claims and teaching of the Church. We should notice 
how the ' new learning' of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries gradually awakened the critical faculty in 
the study oTthe sacred writings ; how Biblical criticism 
has slowly but surely followed in the track of philo- 
logical and historical (not without a remoter influence 
exercised upon it also by natural science) ; how, too, 

Z 2 

340 Oil the Tiiterpretation of Scrijjtme. 

the form of the scholastic literature, and even of notes 
on the chissics, insensibly communicated itself to com- 
mentaries on Scripture. We should see how the word 
inspiration, from being used in a general way to ex- 
press Avhat may be called the prophetic spirit of 
Scripture, has passed, within the last two centuries, 
into a sort of technical term ; how, in other instances, 
the practice or feeling of earlier ages has been hollowed 
out into the theory or system of later ones. We 
should observe how the popular explanations of pro- 
phecy as in heathen (Thucyd. ii. 54), so also in Christian 
times, had adapted themselves to the circumstances of 
mankind. We might remark that in our own country, 

\- and in the present generation especially, the interpre- 
tation of Scripture had assumed an apologetic character, 
as though making an effort to defend itself against 
some supposed inroad of science and criticism ; while 
among German commentators there is, for the first 

iij^ time in the historj^ of the world, an approach to 
agreement and certainty. For example, the diversity 
among German writers on prophecy is far less than 
among English ones. That is a new phenomenon 
which has to be acknowledged. More than any other 
v subject of human knowledge. Biblical criticism has 
hung to the past ; it has been hitherto found truer to 
the traditions of the Church than to the words of 
Christ. It has made, however, two great steps 
onward — at the time of the Reformation and in our 
day. The diffusion of a critical spirit in history and 
literature is affecting the criticism of the Bible in our 
own day in a manner not unlike the burst of intellectual 
T life in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. Educated 
persons are beginning to ask, not what Scripture may 
be made to mean, but what it does. And it is no 
exaggeration to say that he who in the present state 
of knowledge will confine himself to the plain meaning 
of words and the study of their context may know 
more of the original spirit and intention of the authors 

On the Interpret all on of Ser'qjture. 341 

of the New Testament than all the controversial 
writers of former ages put together. 

Such a histor}" would be of great value to philosophy 
as well as to theology. It would be the history of 
the human mind in one of its most remarkable mani- 
festations. For ao^es which are not oris^inal show 
their character in the interpretation of ancient writings. 
Creating nothing, and incapable of that effort of ima- 
gination which is required in a true criticism of the 
past, they read and explain the thoughts of former 
times by the conventional modes of their own. Such 
a history would form a kind of preface or prolegomena 
to the study of Scripture. Like the history of science, 
it would save many a useless toil ; it would indicate 
the uncertainties' on which it is not worth while to 
specuhite further; thebyepaths or labyrinths in which 
men lose themselves ; the mines that are already 
worked out. He who reflects on the multitude of ex- 
planations which already exist of the * number of the 
beast,' ' the two witnesses,' ' the little horn,' ' the man 
of sin,' who observes the manner in which these ex- 
planations have varied with the political movements 
of our own time, will be unwilling to devote himself 
to a method of inquiry in which there is so little ap- 
pearance of certainty or progress. These interpreta- 
tions would destroy one another if they were all placed 
side by side in a tabular analysis. It is an instructive 
fact, which may be mentioned in passing, that Joseph 
Mede, the greatest authority on this subject, twice 
fixed the end of the world in the last century and once 
durino- his own lifetime. In like manner, he who 
notices the circumstance that the explanations of the 
first chapter of Genesis have slowly changed, and, as 
it were, retreated before the advance of geology, will 
be unwilling to add another to the spurious reconcile- 
ments of science and revelation. Or to take an 
example of another kind, the Protestant divine who 
perceives that the types and figures of the Old Testa- 

342 On the InteijJretation of Scripture. 

ment are employed by Eoman Catholics in support of 
the tenets of their church, will be careful not to use 
weapons which it is impossible to guide, and which 
may with equal force be turned against himself. Those 
who have handled them on the Protestant side have 
before now fallen victims to them, not observing as 
they fell that it was by their own hand. 

Much of the uncertainty which prevails in the 
interpretation of Scripture arises out of party efforts 
to wrest its meaning to different sides. There are, 
however, deeper reasons which have hindered the 
natural meaning of the text from immediately and 
universally prevailing. One of these is the unsettled 
state of many questions which have an important but 
indirect bearing on this sul^ject. Some of these ques- 
tions veil themselves in ambiguous terms ; and no one 
likes to draw them out of their hiding-place into the 
light of day. In natural science it is felt to be useless 
to build on assumptions ; in history we look with sus- 
picion on a priori ideas of what ought to have been ; 
in mathematics, when a step is wrong, we pull the 
house down until we reach the point at which the 
error is discovered. But in theology it is otherwise ; 
there the tendency has been to conceal the unsound- 
■^ ness of the foundation under the fairness and loftiness 
of the superstructure. It has been thought safer to 
allow arguments to stand which, although fallacious, 
have been on the right side, than to point out their 
defect. And thus many principles have imperceptibly 
grown up which have overridden facts. No one 
would interpret Scripture, as many do, but for certain 
previous suppositions with wdiich we come to the 
perusal of it. ' There can be no error in the Word 
of Grod,' therefore the discrepancies in the books of 
Kings and Chronicles are only apparent, or may be 
attributed to differences in the copies : — ' It is a thou- 
sand times more likely that the interpreter should err 
than the inspired writer.' For a like reason the failure 

Oil the Interpretation of Scrijjture. 343 

of a proplicc}^ is never admitted, in spite of Scripture 
and of history (Jer. xxxvi. 30; Isai. xxiii. ; Amos vii. 
TO — 17) ; tlie mention of a name later than the sup- 
posed ag-e of the prophet is not allowed, as in otlier 
writings, to be taken in evidence of the date (Isai all 
xlv. i). The accuracy of the Old Testament is mea- 
sured not by the standard of primeval history, but of i- 
a modern critical one, which, contrary to all probability, 
is supposed to be attained; this arbitrary standard 
once assumed, it becomes a point of honour or of faith 
to defend every name, date, place, which occurs. Or 
to take another class of questions, it is said that ' the 
various theories of the origin of the three first Gospels 
are all equally unknown to the Holy Catholic Church,' 
or as another writer of a different school expresses 
himself, ' they tend to sap the inspiration of the ISTew 
Testament.' Again, the language in which our Saviour 
speaks of his own union with the Father is interpreted 
by the language of the creeds. Those who remonstrate 
against double senses, allegorical interpretations, forced 
reconcilements, find themselves met by a sort of pre- 
supposition that 'God speaks not as man speaks.' 
The limitation of the human faculties is confusedly ':^ 
appealed to as a reason for abstaining from investiga- 
tions which are quite within their limits. The ' sus- 
picion of Deism, or perhaps of Atheism, awaits in- 
quiry. By such fears a good man refuses to be in- 
fluenced ; a philosophical mind is apt to cast them aside 
with too much bitterness. It is better to close the 
book than to read it under conditions of thought which 
are imposed from without. Whether those conditions 
of thought are the traditions of the Church, or the 
opinions of the religious world — Catholic or Protestant 
— makes no difference. They are inconsistent with 
the freedom of the truth and the moral character of 
the Gospel. It becomes necessaiy, therefore, to exa- 
mine briefly some of these prior questions which lie 
in the wa}'- of a reasonable criticism. 

344 Oil the Inter jjretation of Scripture. 

s ^. 

Among these previous questions, that which first 
presents itself is the one ah-eady alluded to — the 
question of inspiration. Almost all Christians agree 
in the word, which use and tradition have consecrated 
to express the reverence which they truly feel for the 
Old and New Testaments, But here the agreement of 
opinion ends ; the meaning of inspiration has been 
variously explained, or more often passed over in 
silence from a fear of stirring the difficulties that 
would arise about it. It is one of those theological 
terms which may be regarded as ' great peacemakers,' 
but which are also sources of distrust and misunder- 
standing. For while we are ready to shake hands 
with any one who uses the same language as ourselves, 
a doubt is apt to insinuate itself whether he takes 
language in the same senses — whether a particular 
term conveys all the associations to another which it 
does to ourselves — whether it is not possible that one 
who disagrees about the word may not be more nearly 
agreed about the tiling. The advice has, indeed, been 
given to the theologian that he ' should take care of 
words and leave things to themselves ;' the authority, 
however, who gives the advice is not good — it is placed 
by Groethe in the mouth of Mephistopheles. Pascal 
seriously charges the Jesuits with acting on a similar 
maxim — excommunicating those who meant the same 
thing and said another, holding communion with 
those who said the same thing and meant another. 
But this is not the way to heal the wounds of the 
Church of Christ ; we cannot thus ' skin and him' the 
weak places of theology. Errors about words, and 
the attribution to words themselves of an excessive 
importance, lie at the root of theological as of other 
confusions. In theology they are more dangerous 
than in other sciences, because they cannot so readily 
be brought to the test of facts. 

On the Lit crj) rotation of Scrq^ture. 345 

Tlie word inspiration has received more numerous 
gradations and distinctions of meaning than perhaps 
any other in the whole of theology. There is an inspi- 
ration of superintendence and an inspiration of sug- 
gestion ; an inspiration which would have been 
consistent with the Apostle or Evangelist falling 
into error, and an inspiration which would have 
prevented him from erring ; verbal organic inspi- 
ration by which the inspired person is the passive 
utterer of a Divine Word, and an inspiration which 
acts through the character of the sacred writer ; there 
is an inspiration which absolutely communicates the 
foct to be revealed or statement to be made, and an 
inspiration which does not supersede the ordinary 
knowledge of human events ; there is an inspiration 
which demands infallibility in matters of doctrine, 
but allows for mistakes in fact. Lastly, there is a 
view of inspiration which recognises only its super- 
natural and prophetic character, and a view of inspi- 
ration which regards the Apostles and Evangelists as 
equally inspired in their writings and in their lives, 
and in both receiving the guidance of the Spirit of 
truth in a manner not, different in kind but only in 
degree from ordinary Christians. Many of these ex- 
planations lose sight of the original meaning and de- 
rivation of the word ; some of them are framed with the 
view of meeting difficulties ; all perhaps err in attempt- 
ing to define what, though real, is incapable of being 
defined in an exact manner. Nor for any of the 
higher or supernatural views of inspiration is there 
any foundation in the Gospels or Epistles. There is 
no appearance in their writings that the Evangelists 
or Apostles had any inward gift, or were subject 
to any power external to them different from that 
of preaching or teaching which they daily exercised ; 
nor do they anywhere lead us to suppose that they 
were free from error or infirmity. St. Paul writes 
like a Christian teacher, exhibiting all the emotions 

346 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

and vicissitudes of liumiin feeling, speaking, indeed, 
with aiithoritv, but liesitating- in difficult cases and 
more than once correcting himself, corrected, too, by 
the course of events in his expectation of the coming 
of Christ. The Evangelist ' who saw it, bare record, 
and his record is true : and he knoweth that he saith 
true' (John xix. 35). Another Evangelist does not 
profess to be an original narrator, but only ' to set 
forth in order a declaration of what eye-witnesses had 
delivered,' like many others whose writings have not 
been preserved to us (Luke i. i, 2). And the result is 
in accordance with the simple profession and style in 
which they describe themselves ; there is no appear- 
ance, that is to say, of insincerity or want of faith ; 
but neither is there perfect accuracy or agreement. 
One supposes the original dwelling-place of our Lord's 
■^ parents to have been Bethlehem (Matthew ii. 1, 22), 
J another Nazareth (Luke ii. 4) ; they trace his genealogy 
in different ways ; one mentions the thieves blas- 
pheming, another has preserved to after-ages the 
record of the penitent thief; they appear to differ 
about the day and hour of the Crucifixion ; the 
narrative of the woman who anointed our Lord's feet 
with ointment is told in all four, each narrative having 
more or less considerable variations. These are a few 
instances of the differences which arose in the tra- 
ditions of the earliest ages respecting the history of 
our Lord. But he who wishes to investigate the 
character of the sacred writings should not be afraid 
to make a catalogue of them all with the view of 
estimating their cumulative weight. (For it is obvious 
that the answer which would be admitted in the case 
of a single discrepancy, will not be the true answer 
when there are many.) He should further consider that 
the narratives in which these discrepancies occur are 
short and partly identical — a cycle of tradition beyond 
which the knowledge of the early fathers never travels, 
thouo-h if all the thin^^s that Jesus said and did had 
been written down, 'the world itself could not have con- 

O/i the Intrrpretfdlon of Scripfure. 347 

tained tlie books that would have been written' (John 
XX. 30 ; xxi. 25). For the proportion which these 
narratives bear to the whole subject, as well as their 
relation to one another, is an important element in the 
estimation of diflerences. In the same way, he who 
would understand the nature of prophecy in the Old 
Testament, should have the courage to examine how 
far its details were minutely fulfilled. The absence 
of such a fulfilment may further lead him to discover 
that he took the letter for the spirit in expecting it. 

The subject will clear of itself if we bear in mind 
two considerations : — First, that the nature of inspi- 
_ration can only be known from the examination of 
Scripture. There is no other source to which we can 
turn for information ; and we have no right to assume 
some imaginary doctrine of inspiration like the 
infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church. To the 
question, ' What is inspiration ?' the first answer there- 
fore is, ' That idea of Scripture which we gather from 
the knowledge of it.' It is no mere a priori notion, 
but one to which the book is itself a witness. It is a 
fact which we infer from the study of Scripture — not 
of one portion only, but of the whole. Obviously then 
it embraces writings of very different kinds — the book 
of Esther, for example, or the Song of Solomon, as well 
as the Gospel of St. John. It is reconcileable with 
the mixed good and evil of the characters of the Old 
Testament, which nevertheless does not exclude them 
from the favour of God, with the attribution to the 
Divine Being of actions at variance with that higher 
revelation, which he has givenof himself in the Gospel ; 
it is not inconsistent with imperfect or opposite aspects 
of the truth as in the Book of Job or Ecclesiastes, 
with variations of fact in the Gospels or the books of 
Kings and Chronicles, with inaccuracies of language in 
the Epistles of St. Paul. For these are all found in 
Scripture ; neither is there any reason why they should 
not be, except a general impression that Scripture 
ought to have been written in a way different from 

348 On the Literprefation of Scrqjfure. 

I what it lias. A principle of progressive revelation 
' admits them all ; and this is already contained in the 
words of OTir Saviour, ' Moses because of the hardness 
of your hearts ;' or even in the Old Testament, ' Hence- 
forth there shall be no more this proverb in the house 
of Israel.' For what is progressive is necessarily im- 
perfect in its earlier stages, and even erring to those 
who come after, whether it be the maxims of a half- 
civilized world which are compared with those of a 
civilized one, or the Law with the Gospel. Scripture 
itself points the way to answer the moral objections to 
Scripture. Lesser difficulties remain, but only such as 
would be found commonly in writings of the same age 
or country. There is no more reason why imperfect 
narratives should be excluded from Scripture than 
imperfect grammar ; no more ground for expecting 
that the New Testament would be logical or Aristo- 
telian in form, than that it would be written in Attic 

The other consideration is one which has been 

neglected by writers on this subject. It is this — 

that any true doctrine of inspiration must conform to 

'' all well-ascertained facts of history or of__science. 

The same fact cannot be true and untrue, any more 

than the same words can have two opposite meaninp-s. 

The same fact cannot be true in religion when seen 

by the light of faith, and untrue in science when looked 

at through the medium of evidence or experiment. 

It is ridiculous to suppose that the sun goes round the 

earth in the same sense in which the earth o:oes round 

the sun ; or that the world appears to have existed, 

but has not existed during the vast epochs of which 

geology speaks to us. But if so, there is no need of 

elaborate reconcilements of revelation and science ; 

f"^ they reconcile themselves the moment any scientific 

\^, truth is distinctly ascertained. As the idea of nature 

^^ enlarges, the idea of revelation also enlarges ; it was 

a temporary misunderstanding which severed them. 

And as the knowledge of nature which is possessed by 

On the Interjpretaiion of Scripture. 349 

the few is communicated in its leading features at 
least to the many, they will receive with it a higher 
conception of the ways of God to man. It may 
hereafter appear as natural to the majority of mankind 
to see the providence of God in the order of the world, 
as it once was to appeal to interruptions of it. 

It is true that there is a class of scientific facts 
with which popular opinions on theology often con- 
flict and which do not seem to conform in all respects 
to the severer conditions of inductive science : such 
especially are the facts relating to the formation of 
tlie earth and the beginnings of the human race. But 
it is not worth while to lio-ht on this debateable o-round 
a losing battle in the hope that a generation will pass 
away before we sound a last retreat. Almost all intel- 
ligent persons are agreed that the earth has existed , 
for myriads of ages ; the best informed are of opinion ' 
that the history of nations extends back some thousand 
years before the Mosaic chronology; recent disco veriesin 
geology may perhaps open a further vista of existence 
for the human species, while it is possible, and may 
one day be known, that mankind spread not from one 
but from many centres over the globe ; or as others 
say, that the supply of links which are at present 
wanting in the chain of animal life may lead to new 
conclusions respecting the origin of man. Now 
let it be granted that these facts, being with the 
past, cannot be shown in the same palpable and evident 
manner as the facts of chemistry or physiology ; and 
that the proof of some of them, especially of those last 
mentioned, is wanting ; still it is a false policy to set 
up inspiration or revelation in opposition to them, a '^"^ 
principle which can have no influence on them and 
should be rather kept out of their way. The sciences 
of geology and comparative philology are steadily gain- 
ing ground ; many of the guesses of twenty years ago 
have become certainties, and the guesses of to-day may 
hereafter become so. Shall w^e peril religion on the 
possibility of their untruth ? on such a cast to stake 

350 On the Interpretation of Scrijiture. 

the life of man implies not only a recklessness of facts, 
but a misunderstanding of the nature of the Gospel. 
If it is fortunate for science, it is perhaps more for- 
tunate for Christian truth, that the admission of Gali- 
leo's discovery has for ever settled the principle of the 
relations between them. 

A similar train of thought may be extended to the 
results of historical inquiries. These results can- 
not be barred by the dates or narrative of Scripture ; 
neither should they be made to wind round into agree- 
ment with them. Again, the idea of inspiration must 
expand and take them in. Their importance in a 
religious point of view is not that they impugn or 
confirm the Jewish history, but that they show more 
clearly the purposes of God towards the whole human 
race. The recent chronological discoveries from 
Egyptian monuments do not tend to overthrow re- 
velation, nor the Ninevite inscriptions to support it. 
The use of them on either side may indeed arouse a 
popular interest in them ; it is apt to turn a scientific 
inquiry into a semi-religious controversy. And to 
religion either use is almost equally injurious, because 
seeming to rest truths important to human life on the 
mere accident of an archaeological discovery. Is it to 
be thought that Christianity gains anything from the 
deciphering of the names of some Assyrian and Ba- 
bylonian kings, contemporaries chiefly with the later 
Jewish history ? As little as it ought to lose from the 
appearance of a contradictory narrative of the Exodus 
in the chamber of an Egyptian temple of the year 
\ B.C. 1500. This latter supposition may not be very 

v^ probable. But it is worth wJiile to ask ourselves the 
question, whether we can be right in maintaining any 
view of religion which can be affected by such a j)ro- 

It will be a further assistance in the consideration 

of this subject, to observe that the interpretation of 

A Scripture has nothing to do with any opinion resj)ect- 

ing its origin. The meaning of Scripture is one 

On the liiferjjrefation of Ecrqjlure. 351 

tiling ; the inspiration of Scripture is another. It is 
conceivable that those who hold the most different 
views about the one, may be able to agree about the 
other. Rigid upholders of the verbal inspiration of 
Scripture, and those who deny inspiration altogether, x 
may nevertheless meet on the common ground of the 
meaning of words. If the term inspiration were to 
fall into disuse, no fact of nature, or history, or lan- 
o-uan^e, no event in the life of man, or dealing's of Grod 
with him, would be in any degree altered. The word 
itself is but of yesterday, not found in the earlier 
confessions of the reformed faith ; the difficulties that 
have arisen about it are only two or three centuries 
old. Therefore the question of inspiration, though ^ j^ 
in one sense important, is to the interpreter as though 
it were not important ; he is in no way called upon to 
determine a matter with which he has nothing to do, 
and which was not determined by fathers of the 
Church. And he had better go on his way and leave the 
more precise definition of the word to the progress of 
knowledge and the results of the study of Scripture, 
instead of entangling himself with a theory about it. 

It is one evil of conditions or previous suppositions 
in the study of Scripture, that the assumption of them 
has led to an apologetic temper in the interpreters of 
Scripture. The tone of apology is always a tone of 
weakness and does injury to a good cause. It is the 
reverse of ' ye shall know the truth, and the truth 
shall make you free.' It is hampered with the neces- 
sity of making a defence, and also with previous de- 
fences of the same side ; it accepts, with an excess of 
reserve and caution, the truth itself, when it comes 
from an opposite quarter. Commentators are often 
more occupied with the proof of miracles than with 
the declaration of life and immortality ; with the ful- 
filment of the details of prophecy than with its life 
'cind power ; with the reconcilement of the discrepan- 
cies in the narrative of the infancy, pointed out by 
Schleiermacher, than with the importance of the great 

352 On the Inteiyretation of Sorijjture. 

event of the appearance of the Saviour — ' To fids end 
was I born and for this cause came Unto the world that I 
should bear witness unto the truth' The same tendency is 
observable also in reference to the Acts of the Apostles 
and the Epistles, which are not only broug'ht into 
harmony with each other, but interpreted with a re- 
ference to the traditions of existing communions. 
The natural meaning of particular expressions, as for 
example : ' Why are they then baptized for the dead' 
(i Corinthians xv. 29)? or the words 'because of the 
angels' (i Corinthians xi. 10); or, 'this generation 
shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled ' 
(Matthew xxiv. 34) ; or, ' upon this rock will I build 
my Church, (Matthew xvi. 18), is set aside in favour 
of others, wliicli, however improbable, are more in 
accordance with preconceived opinions, or seem to be 
more worthy of the Sacred writers. The language, 
and also the text, are treated on the same defensive 
and conservative principles. The received translations 
of Philippians ii. 6 (' Who, being in the form of God, 
thought it not robbery to be equal with God'), or 
of Romans iii. 25 (' Whom God hath set forth to 
be a propitiation through faith in his blood'), or 
Romans xv. 6 (' God, even the Father of our Lord 
Jesus Christ'), though erroneous, are not given up 
without a struggle; the i Timothy iii. 16, and 
I John V. 7, (the three witnesses), though the first 
('God manifest in the flesh,' 92 for 02) is not found 
in the best manuscripts, and the second in no Greek 
manuscript worth speaking of, have not yet disappeared 
from the editions of the Greek Testament commonly 
in use in England, and still less from the English 
translation. An English commentator who, with 
Lachman and Tischendorf, supported also by the 
authority of Erasmus, ventures to alter the punctua- 
tion of the doxology in Romans ix. 5 (' Who is over 
all God blessed for ever') hardl3^ escapes the charge of 
heresy. That in most of these cases the words re- 
ferred to have a direct bearing on important contro- 

On the Inierj)rctation of Scripture, 353 

versies is a reason not for retaininsr, but for correctinir 

The temper of accommodation shows itself especially 
in two ways : first, in the attempt to adapt the truths 
of Scripture to the doctrines of the creeds ; secondl}^ 
in the adaptation of the precepts and maxims of 
Scripture to the language or practice of our own age. 
Now the creeds are acknowledged to be a part of 
Christianity ; they stand in a close relation to the 
words of Christ and his Apostles ; nor can it be said 
that any heterodox formula makes a nearer approach 
to a simple and scriptural rule of faith. Neither is 
anything gained by contrasting them with Scripture, 
in which the germs of the expressions used in them 
are sufficiently apparent. Yet it does not follow that 
tliey should be pressed into the service of the inter- 
preter. The growth of ideas in the interval which 
separated the first century from the fourth or sixth 
makes it impossible to apply the language of the one 
to the explanation of the other. Between Scripture 
and the Nicene or Athanasian Creed, a world of the 
understanding comes in — that world of abstractions 
and second notions : and mankind are no longer at 
the same point as when the whole of Christianity was 
contained in the words, ' Believe on the Lord Jesus 
Christ and thou mayest be saved,' when the Gospel 
centred in the attachment to a living or recently de- 
parted friend and Lord. The language of the New 
Testament is the first utterance and consciousness of 
the mind of Christ ; or the immediate vision of the 
Word of life (i John i. i) as it presented itself before 
the eyes of his first followers, or as the sense of His 
truth and power grew upon them (Eomans i. 3, 4) ; 
the other is the result of three or four centuries of 
reflection and controversy. And although this last 
had a truth suited to its age, and its technical expres- 
sions have sunk deep into the heart of the human race, 
it is not the less unfitted to be the medium by the 

A A 

354 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

lielp of wliicli Scripture is to be explained. If the 
occurrence of the phraseology of the Nicene age in a 
verse of the Epistles would detect the spuriousness 
of the verse in which it was found, how can the 
Nicene or Athanasian Creed be a suitable instru- 
ment for the interpretation of Scripture? That ad- 
vantage which the New Testament has over the 
teaching of the Church, as representing what may be 
termed the childhood of the Gospel, would be lost if 
its language were required to conform to that of the 

To attribute to St. Paul or the Twelve the abstract 
notion of Christian truth, which afterwards sprang up in 
the Catholic Church, is the same sort of anachronism as 
to attribute to them a system of philosophy. It is the 
same error as to attribute to Homer the ideas of Thales 
or Heraclitus, or to Thales the more developed prin- 
ciples of Aristotle and Plato. Many persons who 
have no difficulty in tracing the growth of institutions, 
yet seem to fail in recognising the more subtle pro- 
gress of an idea. It is hard to imagine the absence of 
conceptions with which we are familiar; to go back to 
the germ of what we know only in maturity ; to give 
up what has grown to us, and become a part of our 
minds. In the present case, however, the develop- 
ment is not difficult to prove. The statements of 
Scripture are unaccountable if we deny it ; the silence 
of Scripture is equally unaccountable. Absorbed as 
St. Paul was in the person of Christ with an intensity 
of faith and love of which in modern days and at this 
distance of time we can scarcely form a conception — 
high as he raised the dignity of his Lord above all 
things in heaven and earth — looking to Him as the 
Creator of all things, and the head of quick and dead, 
he does not speak of Him as ' equal to the Father,' or 'of 
one substance with the Father.' Much of the language 
of the Epistles (passages for example such as Eomans 
i. 2; Philippians ii. 6) would lose their meaning if distri- 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 355 

biited in alternate clauses between our Lord's humanity 
and divinity. Still greater difficulties would be intro- 
duced into the Gospels by the attempt to identify them 
with the Creeds. We should have to suppose that 
He was and was not tempted ; that when He prayed 
to His Father He prayed also to Himself; that He 
knew and did not know ' of that hour' of which He as 
well as the angels were ignorant. How could He have 
said ' My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?' 
or, ' Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me.' 
How could He have doubted whether ' when the Son 
Cometh he shall find faith upon the earth ?' These 
simple and touching words have to be taken out of 
their natural meaning and connexion to be made the 
theme of apologetic discourses if we insist on recon- 
ciling them with the distinctions of later ages. 

Neither, as has been already remarked, would the 
substitution of any other precise or definite rule of 
faith, as for example the Unitarian, be more favourable 
to the interpretation of Scripture. How could the 
Evangelist St. John have said * the Word was God,' 
or ' God was the Word ' (according to either mode of 
translating), or how would our Lord Himself have 
said, ' T and the Father are one,' if either had meant that 
Christ was a mere man, ' a prophet or as one of the 
prophets ?' No one who takes words in their natural 
sense, can suppose that, 'in the beginning' (John i. i) 
means, 'at the commencement of the ministry of Christ,' 
or that ' the Word was with God,' only relates ' to the 
withdrawal of Christ to commune with God,' or 
that ' the Word is said to be God,' in the ironical 
sense of John x. '>,^. But while venturing to turn one 
eye on these (perhaps obsolete) perversions of the 
meanings of words in old opponents, we must not 
forget also to keep the other open to our own. The 
object of the preceding remark is not to enter into 
controversy with them, or to balance the statements of 
one side with those of the other, but only to point out the 

A A 2 

356 On the Interpretafmn of Scrijjture. 

error of introducing into tlie interpretation of Scripture 
y- the notions of a later age wliicli is common alike to us 
and them. 

The other kind of accommodation which was alluded 
t-^. to above arises out of the difference between the social 
and ecclesiastical state of the world, as it exists in 
actual fact, and the ideal which the Gospel presents to 
us. An ideal is, by its very nature, far removed from 
actual life. It is enshrined not in the material things 
of the external world, but in the heart and conscience. 
< Mankind are dissatisfied at this separation ; they 
fancy that they can make the inward kingdom an 
outward one also. But this is not possible. The 
frame of civilization, that is to say, institutions and 
laws, the usages of business, the customs of society, 
these are for the most part mechanical, capable only 
in a certain degree of a higher and spiritual life. 
Christian motives have never existed in such strength, 
as to make it safe or possible to entrust them with the 
preservation of social order. Other interests are 
therefore provided and other principles, often inde- 
pendent of the teaching of the Gospel, or even 
apparently at variance with it. ' If a man smite thee 
on the right cheek turn to him the other also,' is not 
a regulation of police but an ideal rule of conduct, not 
to be explained away, but rarely if ever to be literally 
acted upon in a civilized country ; or rather to be acted 
upon always in spirit, yet not without a reference to 
the interests of the community. If a missionary were 
to endanger the public peace and come like the Apostles 
saying, ' I ought to obey God rather than man,' it is 
obvious that the most Christian of magistrates could 
not allow him (say in India or New Zealand) to shield 
himself under the authority of these words. For in 
religion as in philosophy there are two opposite poles ; 
of truth and action, of doctrine and practice, of idea 
and fact. The image of God in Christ is over against 
the necessities of human nature and the state of man 

On the Inlerpretaiion of Scrijjture. 357 

on earth. Our Lord himself recognises this distinction, 
when he says, ' Of whom do the kings of the earth 
gather tribute ?' and ' then are the children free.' 
(Matth. xvii. 26.) And again, ' Notwithstanding lest 
we should oftend them,' &c. Here are contrasted 
what may be termed the two poles of idea and fact. 

All men appeal to Scripture, and desire to draw the 
authority of Scripture to their side ; its voice may be 
heard in the turmoil of political strife ; a merely 
verbal similarity, the echo of a word, has weight in 
the determination of a controversy. Such appeals are 
not to be met always by counter-appeals ; they rather 
lead to the consideration of deeper questions as to the 
manner in which Scripture is to be applied. In what 
relation does it stand to actual life ? Is it a law, or 
only a spirit? for nations, or for individuals ? to be 
enforced generally, or in details also ? Are its maxims 
to be modified by experience, or acted upon in defiance 
of experience ? Are the accidental circumstances of 
the first believers to become a rule for us ? Is every- 
thing, in short, done or said by our Saviour and His 
Apostles, to be regarded as a precept or example which 
is to be followed on all occasions and to last for all 
time ? That can hardly be, consistently with the 
chang-es of human things. It would be a rigid skeleton 
of Christianity (not the image of Christ), to which 
society and politics, as well as the lives of individuals, 
would be conformed. It would be the oldness of 
the letter, on which the world would be stretched ; 
not ' the law of the spirit of life' which St. Paul teaches. 
The attempt to force politics and law into the frame- 
work of religion is apt to drive us up into a corner, 
in which the great principles of truth and justice 
have no longer room to make themselves felt. It 
is better, as well as safer, to take the liberty with 
which Christ has made us free. For our Lord Him- 
self has left behind Him words, which contain a 
principle large enough to admit all the forms of 

358 071 the hiterpretation of Scripture. 

society or of life ; ' My kingdom is not of this world,' 
(John xviii, 36.) It does not come into collision 
with pohtics or knowledg-e ; it has nothing to do with 
the Roman government or the Jewish priesthood, or 
with corresponding institutions in the present day ; 
it is a counsel of perfection, and has its dwelling-place 
in the heart of man. That is the real solution of 
questions of Church and State ; all else is relative to 
the history or circumstances of particular nations. 
That is the answer to a doubt which is also raised 
respecting the obligation of the letter of the Gospel 
on individual Christians. But this inwardness of the 
words of Christ is what few are able to receive ; it is 
easier to apply them superficially to tilings without, 
than to be a partaker of them from within. And false 
and miserable applications of them are often made, 
and the kingdom of God becomes the tool of the 
kingdoms of the world. 

The neglect of this necessary contrast between the 
ideal and the actual has had a twofold effect on the 
Interpretation of Scripture. It has led to an unfair 
appropriation of some portions of Scripture and an 
undue neglect of others. The letter is in many cases 
really or apparently in harmony with existing 
practices, or opinions, or institutions. In other 
cases it is far removed from them; it often seems 
as if the world would come to an end before the 
words of Scripture could be realized. The twofold 
effect just now mentioned, corresponds to these two 
classes. Some texts of Scripture have been eagerly 
appealed to and made (in one sense) too much of; 
they have been taken by force into the service of 
received opinions and beliefs ; texts of the other class 
have been either unnoticed or explained away. Con- 
sider, for example, the extraordinary and unreasonable 
importance attached to single words, sometimes of 
doubtful meaning, in reference to any of the following- 
subjects: — I, Divorce; 2, Marriage with a Wife's Sister ; 

0)1 the Interp'ciation of Scripture. 359 

3, Inspiration ; 4, tlie Personality of tlie Holy Spirit ; 
5, Infant Baptism ; 6, Episcopacy ; 7, Divine Right of 
Kings ; 8, Original Sin. There is, indeed, a kind of 
mystery in the way in which the chance words of a 
simple narrative, the occurrence of some accidental 
event, the use even of a figure of speech, or a mis- 
translation of a word in Latin or English, have affected 
the thouo'hts of future ag-es and distant countries. 
Nothing so slight that it has not been caught at ; 
nothing so plain that it may not be explained away. 
What men have brought to the text they have also 
found there ; what has received no interpretation or 
witness, either in the customs of the Church or in ' the 
thoughts of many hearts,' is still ' an unknown tongue' 
to them. It is with Scripture as with oratory, its ^ 
effect partly depends on the preparation in the mind ^ 
or in circumstances for the reception of it. There is 
no use of Scripture, no quotation or even misquotation 
of a word which is not a power in the world, when it 
embodies the spirit of a great movement or is echoed 
by the voice of a large party. 

On the first of the subjects referred to above, it is 
argued from Scripture that adulterers should not be 
allowed to marry again ; and the point of the argu- 
ment turns on the question whether the words (e/croc 
Xoyou TTopi'iiag) saving for the cause of fornication, which 
occur in the first clause of an important text on mar.- 
riage, were designedly or accidentally omitted in the 
second. (Matth. v. 32 ; 'Whosoever shall put away his 
wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to 
commit adulter}^, and whosoever shall marry her that 
is divorced committeth adultery ;' compare also Mark 
X. II, 12). 2. The Scripture argument in the second 
instance is almost invisible, being drawn from a pas- 
sage the meaning of which is irrelevant (Lev. xviii. 
18, 'Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister 
to vex her, to uncover her nakedness beside the other 
in her lifetime') ; and transferred from the Polygamy 

360 On the Interpretation of Scrijjture. 

which prevailed in Eastern countries 3000 years ago 
to the Monogamy of the nineteenth century and the 
Christian Church, in spite of the custom and tradition 
of the Jews and the analogy of the brother's widow, 

3. In the third case the word (^eottj'cuo-toc) ' given by 
inspiration of God' is spoken of the Old Testament, 
and is assumed to apply to the New, including that 
Epistle in which the expression occurs (2 Tim. iii. 16.) 

4. In the fourth example the words used are mys- 
terious (John xiv. 26 ; xvi. 15), and seem to come out 
of the depths of a divine consciousness ; they have 
sometimes, however, received a more exact meaning 
than they could truly bear ; what is spoken in a figure 
is construed with the severity of a logical statement, 
while passages of an opposite tenour are overlooked or 
set aside. 5. In the fifth instance, the mere mention 
of a family of a jailer at Philippi who was baptized 
(' he and all his,' Acts xvi. 33), has led to the inference 
that in this family there were probably young children, 
and hence that infant baptism is, first, permissive, 
secondly, obligatory. 6. In the sixth case the chief 
stress of the argument from Scripture turns on the 
occurrence of the word {e7r'i<jKoirog) bishop, in the 
Epistles to Timothy and Titus, which is assisted by a 
supposed analogy between the position of the Apostles 
and of their successors ; although the term bishop is 
clearly used in the passages referred to as well as in 
other parts of the New Testament indistinguishably 
from Presbyter, and the magisterial authority of 
bishops in after ages is unlike rather than like the 
personal authority of the Apostles in the beginning 
of the Gospel. The further development of Episcopacy 
into Apostolical succession has often been rested on 
the promise, ' Lo, I am with you alway, even to the 
end of the world.' 7. In the seventh case the pre- 
cepts of order which are addressed in the Epistle to 
the ' fifth monarchy men of those days,' are transferred 
to a duty of obedience to hereditary princes ; the fact 

On the Iiiterjyretation of Scrip I are. 361 

of tlie house of David, ' the Lord's anointed,' sittini^ 
on the throne of Israel is converted into a principle 
for all times and countries. And the higher lesson 
which our Saviour teaches : ' Eender unto Caesar the 
things which are Caesar's,' that is to say, ' Hender unto 
all their due, and to God above all,' is spoiled by being 
made into a precept of political subjection. 8. Lastly, 
the justice of God ' who rewardeth every man according 
to his works,' and the Christian scheme of redemption 
has been staked on two figurative expressions of St. 
Paul to which there is no parallel in any other part of 
Scripture (i Corinthians xv. 23. ' For as in Adam all 
die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,' and the 
corresponding passage in Romans v. 12); notwith- 
standing the declaration of the Old Testament as also 
of the New, ' Every soul shall bear its own iniquity,' 
and ' neither this man sinned nor his parents.' It is 
not necessary for our purpose to engage further in 
the matters of dispute which have arisen by the way 
in attempting to illustrate the general argument. Yet 
to avoid misconception it may be remarked, that many 
of the principles, rules, or truths mentioned, as for 
example. Infant Baptism, or the Episcopal Form of 
Church Government, have sufficient grounds ; the 
weakness is the attempt to derive them from Scripture. 
With this minute and rigid enforcement of the 
words of Scripture in passages where the ideas ex- 
pressed in them either really or apparently agree with 
received opinions or institutions, there remains to be 
contrasted the neglect, or in some instances the mis- 
interpretation of other words which are not equally 
in harmony with the spirit of the age. In many of 
our Lord's discourses he speaks of the ' blessedness of 
poverty :' of the hardness which they that have ri(;hes 
will experience ' in attaining eternal life.' ' It is easier 
for a camel to go through a needle's eye,' and ' Son, 
thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things,' and 
again 'One thing thou lackest, go sell all that thou hast.' 

362 On the Liicrpreiation of Scrijjture. 

Precepts like these do not appeal to our own expe- 
rience of life ; they are unlike anything that we see 
around us at the present day, even among good men ; 
to some among us they will recall the remarkable say- 
ing of Lessing, — ' that the Christian religion had been 
tried for eighteen centuries ; the religion of Christ re- 
mained to be tried.' To take them literally would be 
injurious to ourselves and to society, (at least, so we 
think). Eeligious sects or orders who have seized 
this aspect of Christianity have come to no good, and 
have often ended in extravagance. It will not do to 
go into the world saying, ' Woe unto you, ye rich 
men,' or on entering a noble mansion to repeat the 

.^- denunciations of the prophet about ' cedar and ver- 
milion,' or on being shown the prospect of a magni- 
ficent estate to cry out, ' Woe unto them that lay field 
to field that they may be placed alone in the midst of 
the earth.' Times have altered, ^ve sa}'", since these de- 
- - nunciations were uttered ; what appeared to the Prophet 
or Apostle a violation of the appointment of Providence 
has now become a part of it. It will not do to make a 
great supper, and mingle at the same board the two 
ends of society, as modern phraseology calls them, 
fetching in ' the poor, the maimed, the lame, the 
blind,' to fill the vacant places of noble guests. 
That would be eccentric in modern times, and even 
hurtful. Neither is it suitable for us to wash one 
another's feet, or to perform any other menial office, 
because our Lord set us the example. The customs 
of society do not admit it ; no good would be 
done by it, and singularity is of itself an evil. 
Well, then, are the precepts of Christ not to be 
obeyed? Perhaps in their fullest sense they cannot 
be obeyed. But at any rate they are not to be ex- 
plained away ; the standard of Christ is not to be 

^ lowered to ordinary Christian life, because ordinary 
Christian life cannot rise, even in good men, to the 
standard of Christ. And there may be ' standing 

On the Interpretation of Scrijjtwre. 363 

among us' some one in ten thousand ' whom we know 
not/ in whom there is such a divine union of charity 
and prudence that he is most blest in the entire fulfil- 
ment of the precept — ' Go sell all that thou hast,' — 
which to obey literally in other cases would be evil, 
and not good. Many there have been, doubtless (not 
one or two only), who have given all that they had 
on earth to their family or friends — the poor servant 
' casting her two mites into the treasury,' denying 
herself the ordinary comforts of life for the sake of an 
erring parent or brother ; that is not probably an un- 
common case, and as near an approach as in this life 
we make to heaven. And there may be some one or 
two rare natures in the world in whom there is such 
a divine courtesy, such a gentleness and dignity of 
soul, that differences of rank seem to vanish be- 
fore them, and they look upon the face of others, 
even of their own servants and dependents, only 
as they are in the sight of God and will be in 
His kingdom. And there may be some tender and 
delicate woman among us, who feels that she has a 
divine vocation to fulfil the most repulsive offices 
towards the dying inmates of a hospital, or the soldier 
perishing in a foreign land. Whether such examples 
of self-sacrifice are good or evil, must depend, not 
altogether on social or economical principles, but on 
the spirit of those who offer them, and the power 
which they have in themselves of ' making all things 
kin.' And even if the ideal itself were not carried out 
by us in practice, it has nevertheless what may be 
termed a truth of feeling. 'Let them that have 
riches be as though they had them not.' ' Let the rich 
man wear the load lightly ; he will one day fold them 
up as a vesture.' Let not the refinement of society 
make us forget that it is not the refined only who are 
received into the kingdom of God ; nor the daintiness 
of life hide from us the bodily evils of which the rich 
man and Lazarus are alike heirs. Thoughts such as 

364 On the Interpretation of 8c rijjiure. 

these have the power to reunite us to our fellow- 
creatures from whom the accidents of birth, position, 
wealth have separated us ; they soften our hearts 
towards them, when divided not only by vice and 
ignorance, but what is even a greater barrier, difference 
of manners and associations. For if there be anything 
in our own fortune superior to that of others, instead 
of idolizing or cherishing it in the blood, the Gospel 
would have us cast it from us ; and if there be an}'- 
thing mean or despised in those with whom we have 
to do, the Gospel would have us regard such as friends 
and brethren, yea, even as having the person of Christ. 
Another instance of apparent, if not real neglect of 
the precepts of Scripture, is furnished by the com- 
mandment against swearing. No precept about 
i divorce is so plain, so universal, so exclusive as this ; 
' Swear not at all.' Yet we all know how the custom 
of Christian countries has modified this * counsel of 
perfection' which was uttered by the Saviour. This 
is the more remarkable because in this case the precept 
is not, as in the former, practically impossible of ful- 
filment or even difiicult. And yet in this instance 
again, the body who have endeavoured to follow more 
nearl}^ the letter of our Lord's commandment, seem to 
have gone against the common sense of the Christian 
world. Or to add one more example : Who, that hears 
of the Sabbatarianism, as it is called, of some Protestant 
countries, would imagine thatthe Author of our religion 
had cautioned his disciples, not against the violation 
of the Sabbath, but only against its formal and Phari- 
saical observance; or that the chiefest of the Apostles 
had warned the Colossians to ' Let no man judge them 
inrespectof thenewmoon,orof thesabbath-days.' (ii. 16.) 
The neglect of another class of passag^es is even 
more surprising, the precepts contained in tJlem being 
V,- quite practicable and in harmony with the existing 
'" state of the world. In this instance it seems as if 
religious teachers had failed to gather those principles 

On the Intei'prefation of Scr'qjture. 3G5 

of whicli they stood most in need. ' Tliink ye that 
those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell ?' 
is the characteristic lesson of the Grospel on the occasion 
of an}^ sudden visitation. Yet it is another reading 
of such calamities which is commonly insisted upon. 
The observation is seldom made respecting the parable 
of the good Samaritan, that the true neighbour is also 
a person of a different religion. The words, ' Forbid 
him not : for there is no man which shall do a miracle in 
my name, that can lightly speak evil of me,' are often 
said to have no application to sectarian differences in 
the present day, when the Church is established and 
miracles have ceased. The conduct of our Lord to the 
woman taken in adultery, though not intended for our 
imitation always, yet affords a painful contrast to the 
excessive severity with which even a Christian society 
punishes the errors of women. The boldness with which 
St. Paul applies the principle of individual judgment, 
' Let every man l3e fully persuaded in his own mind,' as 
exhibited also in the words quoted above, 'Let no man 
judge yon in respect of the new moon, or of the sab- 
batli-days,' is far greater than would be allowed in the 
]iresent age. Lastly, that the tenet of the damnation of 
the heathen should ever have prevailed in the Christian 
world, or that the damnation of Catholics should have 
been a received opinion among Protestants, implies a 
strange forgetfulness of such passages as Eomans ii. 
1-16. 'Who rewardeth every man according to hjs 
work,' and ' When the Gentiles, which know not the 
law, do by nature the things contained in the law,' 
&c. What a difference between the simple statement 
which the Apostle makes of the justice of God and 
the ' uncovenanted mercies' or ' invincible ignorance' 
of theologians half reluctant to give up, yet afraid to 
maintain the advantage of denying salvation to those 
who are ' extra palum Ecclesice t 

The same habit of silence or misinterpretation 
extends to words or statements of Scripture in which 

366 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

doctrines are thought to be interested. When main- 
taining the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity, we do 
not readily recall the verse, ' of that hour knoweth no 
man, no not the Angels of Grod, neither the Son, but the 
Father.' (Mark xiii. 32.) The temper or feeling whichled 
St. Ambrose to doubt the genuineness of the words 
marked in italics, leads Christians in our own day to 
pass them over. We are scarcely just to the Mille- 
narians or to those who maintain the continuance of 
miracles or spiritual gifts in the Christian Church, in 
not admitting the degree of support which is afforded 
to their views by many passages of Scripture. The 
same remark applies to the Predestinarian controversy; 
the Calvin ist is often hardly dealt with, in being 
deprived of his real standing ground in the third and 
ninth chapters of the Epistle to the Eomans. And the 
Protestant who thinks himself bound to prove from 
Scripture the very details of doctrine or discipline which 
are maintained in his Church, is often obliged to have 
recourse to harsh methods, and sometimes to deny ap- 
pearances which seem to favour some particular tenet of 
Eoman Catholicism. (Matthew xvi. 18, 19; xviii. 18; 
I Cor. iii. 15.) The Roman Catholic, on the other hand, 
scarcely observes that nearly all the distinctive articles 
of his creed are wanting in the New Testament ; the 
Calvinist in fact ignores almost the whole of the sacred 
volume for the sake of a few verses. The truth is, 
that in seeking to prove our own opinions out of 
Scripture, we are constantly falling into the common 
fallacy of opening our eyes to one class of facts and 
closing them to another. The favourite verses shine 
like stars, while the rest of the page is thrown into 
the shade. 

Nor indeed is it easy to say what is the meaning of 
^ ' proving a doctrine from Scripture.' For when we 
demand logical equivalents and similarity of circum- 
stances, when we balance adverse statements, St 
James and St. Paul, the New Testament with the Old, 

On the Literpretation of Scripture. 8G7 

it will be liard to demonstrate from Scripture any com- 
plex system either of doctrine or practice. The Bible 
is not a book of statutes in which words have been 
chosen to cover the multitude of cases, but in the 
greater portion of it, especially the Gospels and Epistles, 
' like a man talking to his friend.' Nay, more, it is a 
book written in the East, which is in some degree 
liable to be misunderstood, because it speaks the lan- 
guage and has the feeling of Eastern lands. Nor can 
we readily determine in explaining the words of our 
Lord or of St. Paul, how much (even of some of the 
passages just quoted) is to be attributed to Oriental 
modes of speech. Expressions which would be regarded 
as rhetorical exaggerations in the Western world are 
the natural vehicles of thought to an Eastern people. 
How great then must be the confusion where an 
attempt is made to draw out these Oriental modes 
with the severity of a philosophical or legal argument ! 
Is it not such a use of the words of Christ which He 
himself rebukes when He says? ' It is the spirit that 
quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.' (John vi. 
52, 63.) 

There is a further way in which the language of 
creeds and liturgies as well as the ordinary theological 
use of terms exercises a disturbing influence on the 
interpretation of Scripture. Words which occur in 
Scripture are singled out and incorporated in systems, 
like stones taken out of an old building and put into 
a new one. They acquire a technical meaning more 
or less divergent from the original one. It is obvious 
that their use in Scripture, and not their later and 
technical sense, must furnish the rule of interpretation. 
We should not have recourse to the meaning of a 
word in Polybius, for the explanation of its use in 
Plato, or to the turn of a sentence in Lycophron, to 
illustrate a construction of ^Eschylus. It is the same 
kind of anachronism which would interpret Scripture 
by the scholastic or theological use of the language of 

3CS On the Interpretation of Scripttire. 

Scripture. It is remarkable that tins use is indeed 
partial, that is to say it affects one class of words and 
not another. Love and truth, for example, have never 
been theological terms ; grace and faith, on the 
other hand, always retain an association with the 
Pelagian or Lutheran controversies. Justification and 
inspiration are derived from verbs which occur in 
Scripture, and the later substantive has clearly affected 
the meaning of the original verb or verbal in the 
places where they occur. The remark miglit be further 
illustrated by the use of Scriptural language respecting 
the Sacraments, which has also had a reflex influence 
on its interpretation in many passages of Scripture, 
especially in the Gospel of St. John. (John iii. 5 ; vi. 
56, &c.) Minds which are familiar with the mystical 
doctrine of the Sacraments seem to see a reference to 
them in almost every place in the Old Testament as 
well as in the New, in which the words ' water,' or 
' bread and wine' may happen to occur. 
t Other questions meet us on the threshold, of a differ- 
ent kind, which also affect the interpretation of Scrip- 
ture, and therefore demand an answer. Is it admitted 

■)^ that the Scripture has one and only one true meaning? 
Or are we to follow the fathers into mystical and 
allegorical explanations? or with the majority of 
modern interpreters to confine ourselves to the double 
senses of prophecy, and the symbolism of the Gospel 
in the law ? In either case, we assume what can 

J never be proved, and an instrument is introduced of 
such subtlety and pliability as to make the Scriptures 
mean anything — ' Gallus in campanili' as the Wal- 
denses described it ; ' the weathercock on the church 
tower,' which is turned hither and thither bj" every 
wind of doctrine. That the present age has grown 
out of the mystical methods of the early fathers is a 
part of its intellectual state. No one will now seek 
to find hidden meanings in tlie scarlet thread of Eahab, 
or the number of Abraham's followers, or in the little 

On the luierjyretaiion of Scripture. 309 

circumstance mentioned after tlie resurrection of the 
Saviour that St. Peter was the first to enter the sepul- 
chre. To most educated persons in the nineteenth 
century, these applications of Scripture appear foolish. 
Yet it is rather the excess of the method which pro- 
vokes a smile than the method itself. For many 
remains of the mystical interpretation exist among our- 
selves ; it is not the early fathers only who have read the 
Bible crosswise, or deciphered it as a book of symbols. 
And the uncertainty is the same in any part of Scrip- 
ture if there is a departure from the plain and obvious 
meaning. If, for example, we alternate the verses in 
which oui' Lord speaks of the last things between 
the day of judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem ; 
or, in the elder prophecies, which are the counterparts 
of these,makea corresponding division between the tem- 
poral and the spiritual Israel ; or again if we attribute 
to the details of the Mosaical ritual a reference to the 
New Testament; or, once more, supposing the passage 
of the Eed Sea to be regarded not merely as a figure 
of baptism, but as a pre-ordained type, the principle 
is conceded ; there is no good reason why the scarlet 
thread of Eahab should not receive the explanation 
given to it by Clement. A little more or a little less 
of the method does not make tlie difference between 
certainty and uncertainty in the interpretation of 
Scripture. In whatever degree it is practised it is 
equally incapable of being reduced to any rule ; it is 
the interpreter's fancy, and is likely to be not less but 
more dangerous and extravagant when it adds the 
charm of authority from its use in past ages. 

The question which has been suggested runs up into 
a more general one, ' the relation iDctween the Old and 
New Testaments.' For the Old Testament will receive 
a different meaning accordingly as it is explained from 
itself or from the New. In the first case a careful 
and conscientious study of each one for itself is all 
that is required; in the second case the types and 

B B 

370 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

ceremonies of the law, perhaps the very facts and per- 
sons of the history, will be assumed to be predestined 
or made after a pattern corresponding to the things 
that were to be in the latter days. And this question 
of itself stirs another question respecting the interpre- 
tation of the Old Testament in the New. Is such 
interpretation to be regarded as the meaning of 
the original text, or an accommodation of it to the 
thoughts of other times ? 

Our object is not to attempt here the determination 
of these questions, but to point out that they must be 
determined before any real progress can be made or 
any agreement arrived at in the interpretation of 
Scripture. With one more example of another kind 
we may close this part of the subject. The origin of 
thg^hree first Gospels is an inquiry wliTclT has not 
been "much considered by English theologians since 
the days of Bishop Marsh. The difficulty of the 
question has been sometimes misunderstood ; the 
point being how there can be so much agreement in 
words, and so much disagreement both in words and 
facts ; the double phenomenon is the real perplexity — 
how in short there can be all degrees of similarity and 
dissimilarity, the kind and degree of similarity being 
such as to make it necessary to suppose that large 
portions are copied from each other or from common 
documents ; the dissimilarities being of a kind which 
seem to render impossible any knowledge in the 
authors of one another's writings. The most probable 
solution of this difficulty is, that the tradition on which 
the three first Gospels are based was at first pre- 
served orally, and slowly put together and written 
in the three forms which it assumed at a very early 
period, those forms being in some places, perhaps, 
modified by translation. It is not necessary to de- 
velope this hypothesis farther. The point to be noticed 
is, that whether this or some other theory be the true 
account (and some such account is demonstrably 

0)1 the Interpretation of Scripture. 371 

necessary), the assumption of such a theory, or rather 
the observation of the facts on which it rests, cannot i^ 
but exercise an influence on interpretation. We can -i^' 
no longer speak of three independent witnesses of the 
Gospel narrative. Hence there follow some other 
consequences, (i.) There is no longer the same neces- 
sity as heretofore to reconcile inconsistent narratives ; 
the harmony of the Gospels only means the parallelism 
of similar words. (2.) There is no longer any need to 
enforce everj^where the connexion of successive verses, 
for the same \vords will be fonnd to occur in different 
connexions in the different Gospels. (3.) Nor can the 
designs attributed to their authors be regarded as the 
free handling of the same subject on different plans ; 
the difference consisting chiefly in the occurrence or 
absence of local or verbal explanations, or the ad- 
dition or omission of certain passages. Lastly, it is 
evident that no weight can be given to traditional 
statements of facts about the authorship, as, for ex- 
ample, that respecting St. Mark being the interpreter 
of St. Peter, because the Fathers who have handed 
down these statements were ignorant or unobservant 
of the great fact, which is proved by internal evidence, y- 
that they are for the most part of common origin. 

Until these and the like questions are determined 
by interpreters, it is not possible that there should be 
agreement in the interpretation of Scripture. The 
Protestant and Catholic, the Unitarian and Trinita- 
rian will continue to fight their battle on the ground 
of the New Testament. The Preterists and Futurists, 
those who maintain that the roll of prophecies is 
completed in past history, or in the apostolical age ; 
those who look forward to a long series of events 
which are yet to come [ac u({>aveQ tou /hvOov avivsyKwu 
ovK s^H eXty^ou^, may alike claim the authority of the 
Book of Daniel, or the Eevelation. Apparent coinci- 
dences will always be discovered by those who vv'ant 
to find them. TOiere there is no critical interpreta- 

B B 2 

372 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

tion of Scripture, there will be a m^^stical or rheto- 
rical one. If words have more than one meaning, the j 
may have any meaning. Instead of being a rule of 
^- life or faith, Scripture becomes the expression of the 
■ ever-changing aspect of religious opinions. The un- 
changeable word of God, in the name of which we 
repose, is changed by each age and each generation 
in accordance with its passing fancy. The book in 
^wliicli we believe all relie^ious truth to be contained, 
\/- )\^ the most uncertain of all books, because interpreted 
« y-^ by arbitrary and uncertain methods. 

§ 3- 
It is probable that some of the preceding state- 
ments may be censured as a wanton exposure of the 
difficulties of Scripture. It will be said that such 
inquiries are for the few, while the printed page lies 
open to the many, and that the obtrusion of them 
may offend some weaker brother, some half-educated 
or prejudiced soul, ' for whom,' nevertheless, in the 
touching language of St. Paul, ' Christ died.' A con- 
fusion of the heart and head may lead sensitive 
minds into a desertion of the principles of the Chris- 
tian life, which are their own witness, because they 
are in doubt about facts which are really external to 
them. Great evil to character may sometimes ensue 
from such causes. ' ISTo man can serve two' opinions 
without a sensible harm to his nature. The con- 
sciousness of this responsibility should be always 
present to writers on theology. But the responsibi- 
lity is really two-fold ; for there is a duty to speak 
the truth as well as a duty to withhold it. The voice 
of a majority of the clergy throughout the world, the 
half sceptical, half conservative instincts of many laj- 
men, perhaps, also, individual interest, are in favour 
of the latter course ; while a higher expediency pleads 
that 'honesty is the best policy,' and that truth alone 
' makes free.' To this it may be replied, that truth 
is not truth to those who are unable to use it ; no 

On the Interpretation of Scrqjtiire. 373 

reasonable man would attempt to lay before tlie illiterate 
such a question as that concerning the origin ol' tlie 
Grospels. And yet it may be rejoined once more, the 
healthy tone of religion among the poor depends upon 
freedom of thought and inquiry among the educated. 
In this conflict of reasons, individual judgment must 
at last decide. That there has been no rude, or im- 
proper unveiling of the difficulties of Scripture in 
the preceding pages, is thought to be shown by the 
following considerations : 

First, that the difficulties referred to are very well 
known ; they force themselves on the attention, not 
only of the student, but of every intelligent reader of 
the New Testament, whether in Greek or English. 
The treatment of such difficulties in theological works 
is no measure of public opinion respecting them. 
Thoughtful persons, whose minds have turned towards 
theology, are continually discovering that the critical 
observations which they make themselves have been 
made also by others apparently without concert. The 
truth is that they have been led to them by the same 
causes, and these again lie deep in the tendencies of 
education and literature in the present age. But no 
one is willing to break through the reticence which is 
observed on these subjects ; hence a sort of smoulder- 
ing scepticism. It is probable that the distrust is 
greatest at the time when the greatest efforts are made 
to conceal it. Doubt comes in at the window, when 
Inquiry is denied at the door. The thoughts of 
able and highly educated young men almost always 
stray towards the first principles of things ; it is 
a great injury to them, and tends to raise in their 
minds a sort of incurable suspicion, to find that there 
is one book of the fruit of the knowledge of which they 
are forbidden freely to taste, that is, the Bible. The 
same spirit renders the Christian Minister almost 
powerless in the hands of his opponents. He can 
give no true answer to the mechanic or artisan who 

374 On the Interjirciation of ScrijAure. 

has either discovered by his mother-wit or who retails 
at second-hand the objections of critics; for he is 
unable to look at things as they truly are. 

Secondly, as the time has come when it is no longer 
possible to ignore the results of criticism, it is of im- 
portance that Christianity should be seen to be in 
harmony Math them. That objections to some received 
views should be valid, and yet that they should be 
always held up as the objections of infidels, is a mis- 
chief to the Christian cause. It is a mischief that 
critical observations which any intelligent man can 
make ^ for himself, should be ascribed to atheism or 
unbelief. It would be a strange and almost incredible 
thing that the Gospel, which at first made war only 
on the vices of mankind, should now be opposed to 
one of the highest and rarest of human virtues — the love 
of truth. ^ And that in the present day the great object 
of Christianity should be, not to change the lives of men, 
but to prevent them from changing their opinions; 
that would be a singular inversion of the purposes for 
which Christ came into the world. The Christian 
^ religion is in a false position when all the tendencies 
of knowledge are opposed to it. Such a position can- 
not be long maintained, or can only end in the with- 
drawal of the educated classes from the influences of 
religion. It is a grave consideration whether we 
ourselves may not be in an earlier stage of the same 
religious dissolution, which seems to have gone further 
in Italy and France. The reason for thinking so is 
not to be sought in the external circumstances of our 
own or any other religious communion, but in the 
progress of ideas with which Christian teachers seem to 
be ill at ease. Time was when the Gospel was before 
the age ; when it breatlied a new life into a decaying 
world — when the difficulties of Christianity were 
difficulties of the heart only, and the highest minds 
found in its truths not only the rule of their lives, 
but a well-spring of intellectual dehght. Is it to be 

On the I/ifcrjTretation of Scripture. 375 

held a thing impossible that the Christian religion, 
instead of shrinking into itself, may again embrace the 
thoughts of men npon the earth ? Or is it true that 
since the Reformation ' all intellect has gone the other 
way'? and that in Protestant countries reconciliation 
is as hopeless as Protestants commonly believe to be 
the case in Catholic ? 

Those who hold the possibility of such a reconcile- 
ment or restoration of belief, are anxious to disengage 
Christianity from all suspicion of disguise or unfair- 
ness. They wish to preserve the historical use of 
Scripture as the continuous witness in all ages of the 
higher things in the heart of man, as the inspired 
source of truth and the way to the better life. They 
are willing to take away some of the external supports, 
because they are not needed and do harm ; also, 
because they interfere with the meaning. They have 
a faith, not that after a period of transition all things 
will remain just as they were before, but that they 
will all come round again to the use of man and to the 
glory of God. When interpreted like any other book, 
by the same rules of evidence and the same canons of 
criticism, the Bible will still remain unlike any other 
book ; its beauty will be freshly seen, as of a picture .^ 
which is restored after many ages to its original state ; ^ 
it will create a new interest and make for itself a new 
kind of authority by the life which is in it. It will 
be a spirit and not a letter; as it was in the beginning, 
having an influence like that of the spoken word, or 
the book newly found. The purer the light in the 
human heart, the more it will have an expression of 
itself in the mind of Christ; the greater the knowledge 
of the development of man, the truer will be the in- 
sight gained into the 'increasing purpose' of revelation. 
In which also the individual soul has a practical part, 
finding a sympathy with its own imperfect feelings, 
in the broken utterance of the Psalmist or the Prophet 
as well as in the fulness of Christ. The harmony 

376 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

between Scripture and the life of man, in all its stages, 
may be far greater than appears at present. No one 
can form any notion from what we see around us, of 
the power which Cliristianity might have if it were at 
one with the conscience of man, and not at variance 
with his intellectual convictions. There, a world weary 
of the heat and dust of controversy — -of speculations 
about God and man — weary too of the rapidity of its 
own motion, would return home and find rest. 

But for the ftiith that the Gospel might win again 
the minds of intellectual men, it would be better to 
leave religion to itself, instead of attempting to draw 
them together. Other walks in literature have peace 
and pleasure and profit; the path of the critical 
Interpreter of Scripture is almost always a thorny one 
in England. It is not worth while for any one to 
enter upon it who is not supported by a sense that he 
has a Christian and moral object. For although an 
Interpreter of Scripture in modern times will hardly 
say with the emphasis of the Apostle, ' Woe is me, if I 
speak not the truth without regard to consequences,' 
yet he too may feel it a matter of duty not to conceal 
the things which he knows. He does not hide the 
discrepancies of Scripture, because the acknowledgment 
*of them is the first step towards agreement among 
interpreters. He would restore the original meaning 
because ' seven other' meanings take the place of it ; 
the book is made the sport of opinion and the instru- 
ment of perversion of life. He would take the excuses 
of the head out of the way of the heart ; there is hope 
^ too that by drawing Christians together on the ground 
of Scripture, he may also draw them nearer to one 
another. He is not afraid that inquiries, which have 
for their object the truth, can ever be displeasing to 
the God of truth ; or that the Word of God is in any 
such sense a word as to be hurt by investigations into 
its human origin and conception. 

It may be thought another ungracious aspect of the 

On the Inicrjjretailon of Scrijjture. 2>11 

preceding remarks, that they cast a slight upou tlie 
interpreters of Scripture in former ages. The early 
Fathers, the Eoman Catholic mystical writers, the 
Swiss and German Reformers, the Nonconformist 
divines, have qualities for which we look in vain among 
ourselves ; they throw an intensity of light upon the 
page of Scripture which we nowhere find in modern 
commentaries. But it is not the light of interpreta- 
tion. They have a faith which seems indeed to have 
grown dim now-a-days, but that faitli is not drawn 
from the study of Scripture ; it is the element in which 
their own mind moves which overflows on the meaninsr 
of the text. The words of Scripture suggest to them 
their own thoughts or feelings. They are preachers, 
or in the New Testament sense of the word, prophets 
rather than interpreters. There is nothing in such a 
view derogatory to the saints and doctors of former 
ages. That Aquinas or Bernard did not shake them- 
selves free from the mystical method of the Patristic 
times or the Scholastic one which was more peculiarly 
their own ; that Luther and Calvin read the Scriptures 
in connexion with the ideas which were kindling- in 
the mind of their age, and the events which were 
passing before their eyes, these and similar remarks 
are not to be construed as depreciatory of the genius 
or learning of famous men of old ; they relate only 
to their interpretation of Scripture, in which it is no 
slight upon them, to maintain that they were not 
before their day. 

What remains may be comprised in a few j)recepts, 
or rather is the expansion of a single one. Interpret 
the Scripture like any other book. There are many '\ 
respects in which Scripture is unlike any other book ; 
these will appear in the results of such an interpreta- 
tion. The first step is to know the meaning, and this 
can only be done in the same careful and impartial 
way that we ascertain the meaning of Sophocles or of 
Plato. The subordinate principles which flow out of 

378 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

this general one will also be gathered from the 
observation of Scripture. No other science of Her- 
meneutics is possible but an inductive one, that is to 
say, one based on tlie language and thoughts and nar- 
rations of the sacred writers. And it would be well to 
carry the theory of interpretation no further than in 
the case of other works. Excessive system tends to 
create an impression that the meaning of Scripture is 
out of our reach, or is to be attained in some other 
way than by tlie exercise of manly sense and industry. 
Who would write a bulky treatise about the method 
to be pursued in interpreting Plato or Sophocles? 
Let us not set out on our journey so heavily equipped 
that there is little chance of our arriving at the end of 
it. The method creates itself as we go on, beginning 
only with a few reflections directed against plain errors. 
Such reflections are the rules of common sense, which 
we acknowledge with respect to other works written 
in dead languages ; without pretending to novelty 
they may help us to * retui-n to nature' in the study 
of the sacred writings. 

First, it may be laid down, that Scripture has one 
meanin"- — the meanino- which it had to the mind of 
the Prophet or Evangelist who first uttered or wrote, 
to the hearers or readers who first received it. Another 
view may be easier or more familiar to us, seeming to 
receive a light and interest from the circumstances 
of our own age. But such accommodation of the text 
must be laid aside by the interpreter, whose business 
is, to place himself as nearly as possible in the position 
of the sacred writer. That is no easy task — to call 
up the inner and outer life of the contemporaries of 
our Saviour ; to follow the abrupt and involved utter- 
ance of St. Paul or of one of the old Prophets ; to trace 
the meaning of words when language first became 
Christian. He will often have to choose the more 
difiicult interpretation (Galatians ii. 20 ; Romans iii. 15, 
&c.), and to refuse one more in agreement with received 

Oil the Liferpretation of Scripture. 379 

opinions, because the latter is less true to the style 
and time of the author. He may incur the charge of 
singularity, or confusion of ideas, or ignorance of Grreek, 
from a misunderstanding of the peculiarity of the sub- 
ject in the person who makes the charge. For if it be 
said that the translation of some Greek words is con- 
trary to the usages of grammar (Galatians iv. 13), that 
is not in every instance to be denied ; the point is, 
whether the usages of grammar are always observed. 
Or if it be objected to some interpretation of Scripture 
that it is difficult and perplexing, the answer is — 
' that may very well be — it is the fact,' arising out of 
differences in the modes of thought of other times, or 
irregularities in the use of language which no art of 
the interpreter can evade. One consideration should 
be borne in mind, that the Bible is the only book in 
the world written in different styles and at many 
different times, which is in the hands of persons of all 
degrees of knowledge and education. The benefit of 
this outweighs the evil, yet theevil shouldbe admitted — 
namely, that it leads toa hasty and partial interpretation 
of Scripture, which often obscures the true one. A sort 
of conflict arises between scientific criticism and popu- 
lar opinion. The indiscriminate use of Scripture has 
a further tendency to maintain erroneous readings or 
translations ; some which are allowed to be such by 
scholars have been stereotyped in the mind of the 
English reader ; and it becomes almost a political 
question how far we can venture to disturb them. 

There are difficulties of another kind in many parts 
of Scripture, the depth and inwardness of which re- 
quire a measure of the same qualities in the interpreter 
himself. There are notes struck in places, which like 
some discoveries of science have sounded before their 
time ; and only after many days have been caught up 
and found a response on the earth. There are germs 
of truth which after thousands of years have never yet 
taken root in the world. There are lessons in the 

380 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

Prophets which, however simple, mankind have not 
yet learned even in theory ; and which the complexity 
of society rather tends to hide ; aspects of human life 
in Job and Ecclesiastes which have a truth of desola- 
tion about them which we faintly realize in ordinary 
circumstances. It is, perhaps, the greatest difficulty of 
all to enter into the meaning of the words of Christ — 
so gentle, so human, so divine, neither adding to them 
nor marring their simplicity. The attempt to illustrate 
or draw them out in detail, even to guard against their 
abuse, is apt to disturb the balance of truth. The 
interpreter needs nothing short of ' fashioning' in him- 
self the image of the mind of Christ. He has to be 
born again into a new spiritual or intellectual world, 
from which the thoughts of this world are shut out. 
It is one of the highest tasks on which the labour of a 
life can be spent, to bring the words of Christ a little 
nearer the heart of man. 

But while acknowledo^ino^ this inexhaustible or in- 
rinite character of the sacred writings, it does not, 
therefore, follow that we are willing to admit of hidden 
or mysterious meanings in them : in the same way we 
recognise the wonders and complexity of the laws of 
nature to be far beyond wdiat eye has seen or know- 
ledge reached, yet it is not therefore to be supposed, 
that we acknowledge the existence of some other laws 
different in kind from those we know which are in- 
capable of philosophical analysis. In like manner we 
have no reason to attribute to the Prophet or Evan- 
gelist any second or hidden sense different from that 
which appears on the surface. All that the Prophet 
meant may not have been consciously present to liis 
mind ; there were depths which to himself also were 
but half revealed. He beheld the fortunes of Israel 
passing into the heavens ; the temporal kingdom was 
lading into an eternal one. It is not to be supposed 
that what he saw at a distance only was clearly defined 
to him ; or that the universal truth which was appear- 

On the Literjjretatmi of Scrijjfiire. 38 1 

ing and reappearing in the history of the surrounding 
world took a purely spiritual or abstract form in his 
mind. There is a sense in which we may still say 
with Lord Bacon, that tlie words of prophecy are to 
be interpreted as tlie words of one ' with whom a 
thousand years are as one day, and one day as a 
thousand years.' But that is no reason for turning 
days into years, or for interpreting the things ' that 
must shortly come to pass ' in the book of revelation, 
as the events of modern history, or for separating the 
day of judgment from the destruction of Jerusalem in 
the Gospels. The double meaning which is given to 
our Saviour's discourse respecting the last things is 
not that ' form of eternity ' of which Lord Bacon 
speaks ; it resembles rather the doubling of an object 
when seen through glasses placed at different angles. 
It is true also that there are types in Sci'ipture which 
were regarded as such by the Jews themselves, as for 
example, the scapegoat, or the paschal lamb. But that 
is no proof of all outward ceremonies being types when 
Scripture is silent ; — if we assume the New Testament 
as a tradition running parallel with the Old, may 
not the Eoman Catholic assume with equal reason 
tradition running parallel with the New? Pro- 
phetic symbols, again, have often the same meaning 
in different places {e.ff., the four beasts or living crea- 
tures, the colours white or red) ; the reason is that 
this meaning is derived from some natural association 
(as of fruitfulness, purity, or the like) ; or again, they 
are borrowed in some of the later prophecies from 
earlier ones ; we are not, therefore, justified in suppos- 
ing any hidden connexion in the prophecies where they 
occur. Neither is there any ground for assuming 
design of any other kind in Scripture any more than 
in Plato or Homer. Wherever there is beauty and 
order, there is design ; but there is no proof of any 
artificial design, such as is often traced by the Fathers, 
in the relation of the several parts of a book, or of 

382 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

the several books to each other. That is one of those 
mischievous notions which enables us, under the dis- 
guise of reverence, to make Scripture mean what we 
please. Nothing that can be said of the greatness or 
sublimity, or truth, or depth, or tenderness, of many 
passages, is too much. But that greatness is of a 
simple kind ; it is not increased by double senses, or 
systems of types, or elaborate structure, or design. If 
every sentence was a mystery, every word a riddle, 
every letter a symbol, that would not make the Scrip- 
tures more worthy of a Divine author ; it is a hea- 
thenish or Eabbinical fancy which reads them in this 
way. Such complexity would not place them above 
but below human compositions in general ; for it 
would deprive them of the ordinary intelligibleness 
of human language. It is not for a Christian theo- 
logian to say that words were given to mankind to 
conceal their thoughts, neither was revelation given 
them to conceal the Divine. 

The second rule is an application of the general 
principle ; ' interpret Scripture from itself ' as in other 
respects, like any other book written in an age and 
country of which little or no other literature survives, 
and about which we know almost nothing except 
what is derived from its pages. Not that all the parts 
of Scripture are to be regarded as an indistinguishable 
mass. The Old Testament is not to be identified with 
the New, nor the Law with the Prophets, nor the 
Gospels with the Epistles, nor the Epistles of St. Paul 
to be violently harmonized with the Epistle of St. 
James. Each writer, each successive age, has charac- 
teristics of its own, as strongly marked, or more 
strongly than those which are found in the authors 
or periods of classical literature. These differences 
are not to be lost in the idea of a Spirit from whom 
they proceed or by which they were overruled. And 
therefore, illustration of one part of Scripture by 
another should be confined to writings of the same 


0)1 the Iiiierpretation of Scripture. 383 

age and the same authors, except where the writings 
of different ages or persons offer obvious similarities. 
It may be said further that illustration should be 
chiefly derived, not only from the same author, but 
from the same writing, or from one of the same period 
of his life. For example, the comparison of St. John 
and the ' synoptic' Gospels, or of the Grospel of St. 
John with the Revelation of St. John, will tend rather 
to confuse than to elucidate the meaning of either ; 
vvdiile, on the other hand, the comparison of the 
Prophets with one another, and with the Psalms, 
offers many valuable helps and lights to the inter- 
preter. Again, the connexion between the Epistles 
written by the Apostle St. Paul about the same time 
{e.ff. Eomans, i and a Corinthians, Galatians, — Colos- 
sians, Philippians, Ephesians, — compared with Romans, 
Colossians, — Ephesians, Galatians, &c,,) is far closer 
than of Epistles which are separated by an interval of 
only a few years. 

But supposing all this to be understood, and that 
by the interpretation of Scripture from itself is meant 
a real interpretation of like by like, it may be asked, 
what is it that we gain from a minute comparison of 
a particular author or writing ? The indiscriminate 
use of parallel passages taken from one end of 
Scripture and applied to the other (except so far as 
earlier compositions may have afforded the material 
or the form of later ones) is useless and uncritical. 
The uneducated, or imperfectly educated person who 
looks out the marginal references of the English Bible, 
imagining himself in this way to gain a clearer insight 
into the Divine meaning, is really following the reli- 
gious associations of his own mind. Even the critical 
use of parallel passages is not without danger. For 
are we to conclude that an author meant in one place 
what he says in another? Shall we venture to mend 
a corrupt phrase on the model of some other phrase, 
which memory, prevailing over judgment, calls up and 

384 On the Interpretatmn of Scrijjfure. 

thrusts into the text ? It is this fallacy which has 
filled the pages of classical writers with useless and 
unfounded emendations. 

The meaning of the Canon ' Non 7iisi ex Scripturd 
Scripturam potes interpretari' is only this, ' That we 
cannot understand Scripture without becoming familiar 
with it.' Scripture is a world by itself, from which 
we must exclude foreign influences, whether theological 
or classical. To get inside that world is an effort of 
thought and imagination, requiring the sense of a 
poet as well as a critic — demanding, much more than 
learning, a degree of original power and intensity of 
mind. Any one who, instead of burying himself in 
the pages of the commentators, would learn the sacred 
writings by heart, and paraphrase them in English, 
will probably make a nearer approach to their true 
meaning than he would gather from any commentary. 
The intelligent mind will ask its own questions, and 
find for the most part its own answers. The true use 
of interpretation is to get rid of interpretation, and 
leave us alone in company with the author. When 
the meaning of Greek words is once known, the young 
student has almost all the real materials which are 
possessed by the greatest Biblical scholar, in the book 
itself. For almost our whole knowledge of the history 
of the Jews is derived from the Old Testament and 
the Apocryphal books, and almost our whole know- 
ledge of the life of Christ and of the Apostolical age 
is derived from the New ; whatever is added to them 
is either conjecture, or very slight topographical or 
chronological illustration. For this reason the rule 
given above, which is applicable to all books, is appli- 
cable to the New Testament more than any other. 

Yet in this consideration of the separate books of 
Scripture it is not to be forgotten that they have also 
a sort of continuity. We make a separate study of the 
subject, of the mode of thought, in some degree also, 
of the language of each book. And at length the 

On the Interjpretation of Scrijjticre. 3S5 

idea arises in our minds of a common literature, a 
pervading life, an overruling law. It may be com- 
pared to the effect of some natural scene in which we 
suddenly perceive a harmony or picture, or to the im- 
perfect appearance of design which suggests itself in 
looking at the surface of the globe. That is to say, 
there is nothing miraculous or artificial in the arrange- 
ment of the books of Scripture ; it is the result, not 
the design, which appears in them when bound in the 
same volume. Or if we like so to say, there is design, 
but a natural design which is revealed to after ages. 
Such continuity or design is best expressed under some 
notion of progress or growth, not regular, however, but 
with broken and imperfect stages, which the want of 
knowledge prevents our minutely defining. The great 
truth of the unity of God was there from the first ; 
slowly as the morning broke in the heavens, like some 
central light, it filled and afterwards dispersed the mists 
of human passion in which it was itself enveloped. 
A change passes over the Jewish religion from fear 
to love, from power to wisdom, from the justice of 
God to tlie mercy of God, from the nation to the 
individual, from this world to another; from the 
visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children, 
to ' every soul shall bear its own iniquity ;' from the 
fire, the earthquake, and the storm, to the still small 
voice. There never was a time after the deliverance 
from Egypt, in which the Jewish people did not bear 
a kind of witness against the cruelty and licentious- 
ness of the surrounding tribes. In the decline of the 
monarchy, as the kingdom itself was sinking under 
foreign conquerors, whether springing from contact 
with the outer world, or from some reaction within, 
the undergrowth of morality gathers strength ; first, 
in the anticipation of prophecy, secondly, like a green 
plant in the hollow rindof Pharisaism, — and individuals 
pray and commune with God each one for himself. 
At length the tree of life blossoms ; the faith in im- 

c c 

386 On the Jnterprcfation of Scripture. 

mortality which had hitherto skimbered in the heart 
of man, intimated only in doubtful words (2 Sam. xii. 
23 ; Psalm xvii. 15), or beaming for an instant in 
dark places (Job xix. 25), has become the prevaiHng 

There is an interval in the Jewish annals which we 
often exclude from our thoughts, because it has no 
record in the canonical writings — extending over about 
four hundred years, from the last of the prophets of 
the Old Testament to the forerunner of Christ in the 
New. This interval, about which we know so little, 
which is regarded by many as a portion of secular 
rather than of sacred histor}^ was nevertheless as 
fruitful in religious changes as any similar period 
which preceded. The establishment of the Jewish 
sects, and the wars of the Maccabees, probably 
exercised as great an influence on Judaism as the 
captivity itself". A third influence was that of the 
Alexandrian literature, which was attracting the 
Jewish intellect, at the same time that the Galilsean 
zealot was tearing the nation in pieces with the doctrine 
that it was lawful to call ' no man master but God.' 
In contrast with that wild fanaticism as well as with 
the proud Pharisee, came One most unlike all that had 
been before, as the kings or rulers of mankind. In 
an age which was the victim of its own passions, the 
creature of its own circumstances, the slave of its own 
degenerate religion, our Saviour taught a lesson abso- 
lutely free from all the influences of a surrounding 
world. He made the last perfect revelation of God to 
man ; a revelation not indeed immediately applicable 
to the state of society or the world, but in its truth 
and purity inexhaustible by the after generations of 
men. And ol'the first application of the truth which He 
taught as a counsel of perfection to the actual circum- 
stances of mankind, we have the example in theEpistles. 

Such a general conception of growth or development 
in Scripture, beginning with the truth of the Unity 

On the Interpretation of Scrijjture. 387 

of God in the earliest books and ending with the per- 
fection of Christ, naturally springs up in our minds in 
the perusal of the sacred writings. It is a notion of 
value to tlie interpreter, for it enables him at the same 
time to grasp the whole and distinguish the parts. 
It saves him from the necessity of maintaining that 
the Old Testament is one and the same everywhere ; 
that the books of Moses contain truths or precepts, 
such as the duty of prayer or the faith in immortality, 
or the spiritual interpretation of sacrifice, which no 
one has ever seen there. It leaves him room enough 
to admit all the facts of the case. No longer is he 
required to defend, or to explain away, David's impre- 
cations against his eneuiies, or his injunctions to 
Solomon, any more than his sin in the matter of 
Uriah. Nor is he hampered with a theory of accom- 
modation. Still, the sense of ' the increasing purpose 
which through the ages ran' is present to him, no- 
Avhere else continuously discernible or ending in a 
divine perfection. Nowhere else is there found the 
same interpenetration of the political and religious 
element — a whole nation, 'though never good for 
much at any time,' possessed with the conviction that 
it was living in the face of God — in whom the Sun of 
righteousness shone upon the corruption of an Eastern 
nature — the * fewest of all people,' yet bearing the 
greatest part in the education of the world. Nowhere 
else among the teachers and benefactors of mankind 
is there any form like His, in whom the desire of the 
nation is fulfilled, and ' not of that nation only,' but 
of all mankind, whom He restores to His Father and 
their Father, to His God and their God. ^^ 

Such a growth or development may be regarded as (^ t*^ 
a kind of progress from childhood to manhood. In 
the child there is an anticipation of truth ; his reason 
is latent in the form of feeling ; many words 
are used by him which he imperfectly understands ; 
he is led by temporal promises, believing, that to be 

c c 2 

3SS On the Inferjjretation of Scnj)ture. 

good is to be liappy always ; lie is pleased by mar- 
vels and has vague terrors. He is confined to a 
spot of earth, and lives in a sort of prison of sense, 
yet is bursting also with a fulness of childish life : 
he imagines God to be like a human father, only 
greater and more awfal ; he is easily impressed with 
solemn thoughts, but soon ' rises up to play' with 
other children. It is observable that his ideas of 
right and wrong are very simple, hardly extending to 
another life ; they consist chiefly in obedience to his 
parents, whose word is his law. As he growls older 
he mixes more and more with others ; first with one 
or two who have a great influence in the direction of 
his mind. At length the world opens upon him ; 
another work of education begins ; and he learns to 
discern more truly the meaning of things and his re- 
lation to men in general. You may complete the 
image, by supposing that there was a time in his early 
days when he was a helpless outcast ' in the land of 
Egypt and the house of bondage.' And as he arrives 
at manhood he reflects on his former years, the 
jorogress of his education, the hardships of his infancy, 
the home of his youth (the thought of which is ineflace- 
able in after life), and he now understands that all this 
was but a preparation for another state of being, in which 
he is to play a part for himself. And once more in age 
you may imagine him like the patriarch looking back on 
the entire past, which he reads anew, perceiving that 
the events of life had a purpose or result which was 
not seen at the time ; they seem to liim bound ' each 
to each by natural piety.' 

' Which things are an allegory,' the particulars of 
which any one may interpret for himself. For the 
child born after the flesh is the symbol of the child 
born after the Spirit. ' The law was a schoolmaster to 
bring men to Christ,' and now ' we are under a school- 
master' no longer. Tlie anticipation of truth which 
came from without to the childhood or youth of the 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 8S9 

human race is witnessed to within ; the reveLition of 
God is not lost but renewed in the heart and under- 
standing of the man. Experience has taught us the 
appUcation of the lesson in a wider sphere. And 
many influences have combined to form the ' after life' 
of the world. When at the close (shall we say) of a 
great period in the history of man, we cast our eyes 
back on the course of events, from the ' angel of his 
presence in the wilderness' to the multitude of peoples, 
nations, lana-uaeres, who are beino" drawn tos^ether by 
His Providence — from the simplicity of the pastoral 
state in the dawn of the world's day, to all the elements 
of civilization and knowledge which are beginning to 
meet and mingle in a common life, we also understand 
that we are no longer in our early home, to which, 
nevertheless, we fondly look ; and that the end is yet 
unseen, and the purposes of God towards the human 
race only half revealed. And to turn once more to 
the Interpreter of Scripture, he too feels that tho 
continuous growth of revelation which he traces in 
the Old and New Testament, is a part of a larger 
whole extending over the earth and reaching to another 

Scripture has an inner life or soul ; it has also an 
outward body or form. That form is language, which 
imperfectly expresses our common notions, much more 
those higher truths which religion teaches. At the time 
when our Saviour came into the world the Greek 
language was itself in a state of degeneracy and decay. 
It had lost its poetic force, and was ceasing to have 
the sway over the mind which classical Greek once 
held. That is a more important revolution in the mental 
history of mankind, than we easily conceive in modern 
times, when all languages sit loosely on thought, and 
the peculiarities, or idiosyncrasies of one are corrected 
by our knowledge of another. It may be numbered 
among the causes which favoured the growth of 

390 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

Christianity. That degeneracy was a preparation for 
the Gospel — the decaying- soil in which the new ele- 
ments of life were to come forth — the beginning of 
another state of man, in which language and mythology 
and philosophy were no longer to exert the same con- 
straining power as in the ancient world. The civilized 
portion of mankind were becoming of one speech, the 
diffusion of which along the shores of the Mediterranean 
sea made a way for the entrance of Christianity into 
the human understanding, just as the Roman empire 
prepared the framework of its outward history. The 
first of all languages, ' for glory and for beauty,' had 
become the ' common dialect' of the Macedonian 
kingdoms; it had been moulded in the schools of 
Alexandria to the ideas of the East and the religious 
wants of Jews. Neither was it any violence to its 
nature to be made the vehicle of the new truths which 
were springing up in the heart of man. The definite- 
ness and absence of reflectiveness in the earlier forms 
of human speech, would have imposed a sort of limit 
on the freedom and spirituality of the Gospel ; even 
the Greek of Plato would have ' coldly furnished forth' 
the words of ' eternal life.' A religion which was to 
be universal required the divisions of languages, as of 
nations, to be in some degree broken down. [' Pcena 
linguariim dwpersit Iiomines, donum Iwguarum in nnum 
cotlegit!^ But this community or freedom of language 
was accompanied by corresponding defects ; it had lost 
its logical precision ; it was less coherent ; and more 
under the influence of association. It might be com- 
pared to a garment which allowed and yet impeded the 
exercise of the mind by being too large and loose for it. 
From the inner life of Scripture it is time to pass 
on to the consideration of this outward form, including 
that other framework of modes of thought and figures 
of speech which is between the two. A knowledge 

I of the original language is a necessary qualification of 
the Interpreter of Scripture. It takes away at least 

0)1 tJie Interpretation of Scripture. 391 

one chance of error in the explanation of a passage ; 
it removes one of the fihns which have gathered over 
the paw ; it brink's the meanini^ home in a more 
intimate and subtle way than a translation could do. 
To this, however, another qualification should be added, 
which is, the logical power to perceive the meaning of 
words in reference to their context. And there is a worse 
fault than ignorance of Greek in the interpretation of 
the New Testament, that is, ignorance of any language. 
The Greek fathers, for example, are far from being the 
best verbal commentators, because their knowledge of 
Greek often leads them away from the drift of the 
passage. The minuteness of the study in our own day 
has also a tendency to introduce into the text associa- 
tions which are not really found there. There is a 
dang-er of making: words mean too much ; refinements 
of signification are drawn out of them, perhaps con- 
tained in their etymology, which are lost in common 
use and parlance. There is the error of interpreting 
every particle, as though it were a link in the argument, 
instead of being, as is often the case, an excrescence of 
style. The verbal critic magnifies his art, which is 
really great in aEschylus or Pindar, but not of equal 
importance in the interpretation of the simpler lan- 
guage of the New Testament. His love of scholarship 
will sometimes lead him to impress a false system on 
words and constructions. A great critic* who has 
commented on the three first chapters of the Epistle to 
the Galatians, has certainly afibrded a proof that it is 
possible to read the New Testament under a distorting 
influence from classical Greek. The tendency gains 
support from the undefined feeling that Scripture does 
not come behind in excellence of language any more 
than of thought. And if not as in former days, the 
classic purity of the Greek of the New Testament, yet 
its certainty and accuracy, the assumption of which, 

* Herman. 

392 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

as any other assumption, is only tlie parent of inaccu- 
racy, is still maintained. 

The study of the language of the New Testament 
has suffered in another way by following too much in 
the track of classical scholarship. All dead languages 
which have passed into the hands of grammarians, 
have given rise to questions which have either no 
result or in w^hich the importance of the result, or the 
certainty, if certain, is out of proportion to the labour 
spent in attaining it. The field is exhausted by great 
critics, and then subdivided among lesser ones. The 
subject, unlike that of physical science, has a limit, 
and unless new ground is broken up, as for example 
in mythology, or comparative philology, is apt to 
grow barren. Though it is not true to say that ' we 
know as much about the Greeks and Romans as we 
ever shall,' it is certain that we run a danger from the 
deficiency of material, of wasting time in questions 
which do not add anything to real knowledge, or in 
conjectures which must always remain uncertain, and 
may in turn give way to other conjectures in the next 
generation. Little points may be of great importance 
when rightly determined, because the observation of 
them tends to quicken the instinct of language ; but 
conjectures about little things or rules respecting them 
which were not in the mind of Grreek authors them- 
selves, are not of equal value. There is the scholas- 
ticism of philology, not only in the Alexandrian, but 
in our own times ; as in the middle ages, there was 
the scholasticism of philosophy. Questions of mere 
orthography, about which there cannot be said to 
have been a right or wrong, have been pursued almost 
with a Rabbinical minuteness. The story of the 
scholar who regretted ' that he had not concentrated 
his life on the dative case/ is hardly a caricature of 
the spirit of such inquiries. The form of notes to the 
classics often seems to arise out of a necessity for ob- 
serving a certain proportion between the commentary 
and the text. And the same tendency is noticeable in 

On the Inicrprdcdion of Script ere. 893 

many of the critical and philological observations 
which are made on the New Testament. The field 
of Biblical criticism is narrower, and its materials 
more fragmentary ; so too the minuteness and nn- 
certainty of the questions raised has been greater. 
For example, the discussions respecting the chronology 
of St. Paul's life and his second imprisonment : or about 
the identity of James, the brother of the Lord, or in 
another department, respecting the use of the Greek 
article, have gone far beyond the line of utility. 

There seem to be reasons for doubting whether any 
considerable light can be thrown on the New Testa- 
ment from inquiry into the language. Such inquiries 
are popular, because they are safe ; but their popularity 
is not the measure of their use. It has not been 
sufficiently considered that the difficulties of the New 
Testament are for the most part common to the Greek 
and the English. The noblest translation in the 
world has a few great errors, more than half of them 
in the text ; but ' we do it violence' to haggle over 
the words. Minute corrections of tenses or particles 
are no good ; they spoil the English without being 
nearer the Greek, Apparent mistranslations are often 
due to a better knowledge of English rather than a 
worse knowledge of Greek. It is true that the signifi- 
cation of a few uncommon expressions, e.g., l^ovaia, 
e7rij3aXtoi', (Tvi'aTray6/.uvni, k.t.X., is yet uncertain. But 
no result of consequence would follow from the 
attainment of absolute certainty respecting the mean- 
ing of any of these. A more promising field opens to the 
interpreter in the examination of theological terms, such 
as faith {-n-icTTiQ), grace {^apig), righteousness {^iKaioavurj), 
sanctification {ayiaa/iiog), the law {vo/nog), the spirit 
(7n^cu/(io), the comforter {-rrapaKXiiToc;), &c., provided 
always that the use of such terms in the New Testa- 
ment is clearly separated (i) from their derivation or 
previous use in Classical or Alexandrian Greek, (2) 
from their after use in the Fathers and in systems of 
theology. To which may be added another select 

394 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

class of Avorcls descriptive of tlie offices or customs of 
the Apostolic Church, such as Apostle (aTrooroAoc), 
Bishop (tTTicr/coTroc), Elder (irpeafivTipoi:), Deacon and 

Deaconess (o /cat ri SiaKovog), love-feast {a-ycnrai), the 

Lord's day (?'; KvpiuKt) r^nepa), &c. It is a lexilogus 
of these and similar terms, rather than a lexicon 
of the entire (jreek Testament that is required. 
Interesting subjects of real inquiry are also the com- 
parison of the Greek of the New Testament with 
modern Grreek on the one hand, and the Greek of the 
LXX. on the other. It is not likely, however, that 
they will afford much more help than they have already 
done in the elucidation of the Greek of the New 

It is for others to investigate the language of the 
Old Testament, to which the preceding remarks are only 
in part applicable. And it may be observed in passing 
of this, as of any other old language, that not the later 
form of the language, but the cognate dialects, must 
ever be the chief source of its illustration. For in 
every ancient language, antecedent or contemporary 
forms, not the subsequent ones, atford the real insight 
into its nature and structure. It must also be 
admitted, that very great and real obscurities exist in 
the English translation of the Old Testament, which 
even a superficial acquaintance with the original has a 
tendency to remove. Leaving, however, to others the 
consideration of the Semitic languages which raise 
questions of a different kind from the Hellenistic 
Greek, we will offer a few remarks on the latter. 
Much has been said of the increasing accuracy of our 
knowledge of the language of the New Testan:ient ; 
the old Hebraistic method of exj)laining difficulties of 
language or construction has retired within very 
narrow limits ; it might probably with advantage be 
confined to still narrower ones — [if it have any place 
at all except in the Apocalypse or the Gospel of St. 
Matthew]. There is, perhaps, some confusion between 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 393 

accuracy of our knowledge of language, and tlie 
accuracy of language itself; which is also strongly 
maintained. It is observed that the usages of bar- 
barous as well as civilized nations conform perfectly to 
grammatical rules ; that the uneducated in all countries 
have certain laws of speech as much as Shakespear or 
Bacon ; the usages of Lucian, it may be said, are as 
regular as those of Plato, even when they are different. 
The decay of language seems rather to witness to 
the permanence than to the changeableness of its 
structure ; it is the flesh, not the bones, that begins to 
drop off. But such general remarks, although just, 
afford but little help in determining the character of 
the Greek of the New Testament, which has of course 
a certain system, failing in which it would cease to be 
a language. Some further illustration is needed of 
the change which has passed upon it. All languages 
do not decay in the same manner ; and the influence 
of decay in the same language may be different in 
different countries ; when used in writing and in 
speaking — when applied to the matters of ordinary 
life and to the higher truths of philosophy or religion. 
And the degeneracy of language itself is not a mere 
principle of dissolution, but creative also ; while dead 
and rigid in some of its uses, it is elastic and expansive 
in others. The decay of an ancient language is the 
beginning of the construction of a modern one. The 
loss of some usages gives a greater precision or 
freedom to others. The logical element, as for example 
in the ]\Iedieval Latin, will probably be strongest when 
the poetical has vanished. A great movement, like the 
Reformation in Germany, passing over a nation, may 
give a new birth also to its language. 

These remarks may be applied to the Greek of the 
New Testament, which although classed vaguely under 
the ' common dialect,' has, nevertheless, many features 
which are altogether peculiar to itself, and such as 
are found in no other remains of ancient literature. 

396 On the Interjjretaiion of Scripture. 

I. It is more unequal in style even in the same books, 
that is to say, more original and plastic in one part, 
more rigid and un pliable in another. There is a want 
of the continuous power to frame a paragraph or to 
arrange clauses in subordination to each other, even to 
the extent in which it was possessed by a Greek 
scholiast or rhetorician. On the other hand there is 
a fulness of life, ' a new birth,' in the use of abstract 
terms which is not found elsewhere, after the golden 
age of Greek philosophy. Almost the only passage 
in the New Testament which reads like a Greek period 
of the time, is the first paragraph of the Gospel 
according to St. Luke, and the corresponding words 
of the Acts. But the power and meaning of the 
characteristic words of the New Testament is in 
remarkable contrast with the vapid and general use of 
the same words in Philo about the same time. There 
is also a sort of lyrical passion in some passages (i 
Cor. xiii. ; 2 Cor. vi. 6 — 10; xi. 21 — 33) which is anew 
thing in the literature of tlie world ; to which, at any 
rate, no Greek author of a later age furnishes any 
parallel. 2. Though written, the Greek of the New 
Testament partakes of the character of a spoken 
language; it is more lively and simple, and less 
structural than ordinary writing — a peculiarity of style 
which further agrees with the circumstance that the 
Epistles of St. Paul were not written with his own 
hand, but probably dictated to an amanuensis, and that 
the Gospels also probably originate in an oral narrative. 
3. The ground colours of the language may be said to 
be two ; first, the LXX. ; which is modified, secondly, 
by the spoken Greek of eastern countries, and by the 
differences which might be expected to arise between 
a translation and an original ; many Hebraisms would 
occur in the Greek of a translator, which would never 
have come to his pen but for the influence of the work 
which he was translating. 4. To which may be added 
a few Latin and Chaldee words, and a few Ilabbinical 

On tlie Intcrjjvciailon of Scripture. 307 

formulas. The influence of Hebrew or Chaldee in the 
New Testament is for the most part at a distance, in 
the background, acting not directly, but mediately, 
through the LXX. It has much to do with the 
clausular structure and general form, but hardly any- 
thing with the grammatical usage. Philo too, did not 
know Hebrew, or at least the Hebrew Scriptures, yet 
there is also a ' mediate' influence of Hebrew trace- 
able in his writings. 5. There is an element of 
constraint in the style of the New Testament, 
arising from the circumstance of its authors writing 
in a language which was not their own. This con- 
straint shows itself in the repetition of words and 
phrases ; in the verbal oppositions and anacolutha 
of St. Paul ; in the short sentences of St. John. 
This is further increased by the fact that the 
writers of the New Testament were ' unlearned men,' 
who had not the same power of writing as of speech. 
Moreover, as has been often remarked, the difficulty 
of composition increases in proportion to the greatness 
of the subject; e.^., the narrative of Thucydides is 
easy and intelligible, while his reflections and speeches 
are full of confusion ; the effort to concentrate seems 
to interfere with the consecutiveness and fluency of 
ideas. Something of this kind is discernible in those 
passages of the Epistles in which the Apostle St. Paul 
is seeking to set forth the opposite sides of God's 
dealing with man, e.(/., Romans iii. i — 9 ; ix., x. ; or in 
which the sequence of the thought is interrupted by 
the conflict of emotions, i Cor. ix. 20; Gal. iv, 11 — 20. 
6. The power of the Gospel over language must be 
recognised, showing itself, first of all, in the original 
and consequently variable signification of words 
{■n-'iaTig, yapiq, (jwrr^pia), wliich is also more compre- 
hensive and human than the heretical usage of many 
of the same terras, e.^., yvwaic (knowledge), aocp'ia 
(wisdom), KTidig (creature, creation) ; secondly, in a 
peculiar use of some constructions, such as — BiKaioavytj 

398 0)1 the Interpretation of Scripture. 

©fov (righteousness of God), -Kianq 'Ijjo-ou Xpiarov 
(faith of Jesus Christ), ev Xpiarw (in Christ), tv Qew (in 
God), virep imCov (for us), in which the meaning of the 
genitive case or of the preposition ahnost escapes our 
notice, from famiharity with the sound of it. Lastly, the 
degeneracy of the Greek language is traceable in the 
failure of syntactical power ; in the insertion of pre- 
positions to denote relations of thought, which classical 
Greek would have expressed by the case only ; in the 
omission of them when classical Greek would have 
required them ; in the incipient use of iva with the 
subjunctive for the infinitive ; in the confusion of ideas 
of cause and effect ; in the absence of the article in the 
case of an increasing number of words which are 
passing into proper names ; in the loss of the finer 
shades of difference in the negative particles ; in the 
occasional confusion of the aorist and perfect ; in exces- 
sive fondness for particles of reasoning or inference ; in 
various forms of apposition, especially that of the 
word to the sentence ; in the use, sometimes emphatic, 
sometimes only pleonastic, of the personal and de- 
monstrative pronouns. These are some of the signs 
that the language is breaking up and losing its 

Our knowledge of the New Testament is derived 
almost exclusively from itself. Of the language, as 
well as of the subject it may be truly said, that what 
other writers contribute is nothing in comparison of 
that which is gained from observation of the text. 
Some inferences wliich may be gathered from this 
general fact, are the following: — First, that less weight 
should be given to lexicons, that is, to the authority of 
other Greek writers, and more to the context. The 
use of a word in a new sense, the attribution of a 
neuter meaning to a verb elsewhere passive, (Eomans 
iii. 9, TTpoe-^oneOa), the resolution of the compound 
into two simple notions, (Galatians iii. i, irpoeypacpi}), 
these, when the context requires it, are not to be set 

On the Inlerpretalion of Scrijjture. 399 

aside by tlie scliolar because sanctioned l)y no known 
examples. The same remark applies to grammars as 
well as lexicons. We cannot be certain that Sm with 
the accusative never has the same meaning as Sm with 
the genitive (Gal. iv. 13; Phil. i. 15), or that the article 
always retains its defining power (2 Cor. i. 17 ; Acts 
xvii. i), or that the perfect is never used in place of the 
aorist (i Cor. xv. 4; Rev. v. 7, &c.) ; still less can we 
affirm that the latter end of a sentence never forgets the 
beginning (Rom. ii. 17 — 31; v. 12 — 18; ix. 22; xvi. 
25 — 27; &c. &c.). Foreign influences tend to derange 
the strong natural perception or remembrance of the 
analogy of our own language. That is very likely to 
have occurred in the case of some of the writers of the 
New Testament ; that there is such a derangement, is a 
fact. There is no probability in favour of St. Paul 
writing in broken sentences, but there is no impro- 
bability which should lead us to assume, in such 
sentences, continuous grammar and thought, as appears 
to have been the feeling of the copyists who have cor- 
rected the anacolutha. The occurrence of them 
further justifies the interpreter in using some freedom 
with other passages in which the syntax does not 
absolutely break down. When ' confusion of two 
constructions,' ' meaning to say one thing and finishing 
w^itli another ;' ' saying two things in one instead of 
disposing them in their logical sequence,' are attributed 
to the Apostle ; the use of these and similar expres- 
sions is defended by the fact that more numerous 
anacolutha occur in St Paul's writings than in any 
equal portion of the New Testament, and far more 
til an in the writings of any other Greek author of 
equal length. 

Passing from the grammatical structure, we may 
briefly consider the logical character of the language 
of the New Testament. Two things should be here 
distinguished, the logical form and the logical sequence 
of thought. Some ages have been remarkable 

400 On the I nierp- elation of Scrijjiure. 

for the former of tliese two cli<aracteristics ; the}^ have 
dealt in opposition, contradiction, climax, pleonasm, 
reason within reason, and the like ; mere statements 
taking- the form of arguments — each sentence seeming 
to be a link in a chain. In such periods of literature, 
the appearance of logic is rhetorical, and is to be set 
down to the style. That is the case with many passages 
in the New Testament which are studded with logical 
or rhetorical formulae, especially in the Epistles of St. 
Paul. Nothing can be more simple or natural than 
the object of the writer. Yet ' forms of the schools ' 
appear (whether learnt at the feet of Gamaliel, that 
reputed master of Greek learning, or not,) which imply 
a decree of lo;2:ical or rhetorical training-. 

The observation of this rhetorical or logical element 
has a bearing on the Interpretation of Scripture. For 
it leads us to distinguish between the superficial con- 
nexion of words and the real connexion of thoughts. 
Otherwise injustice is done to the argument of the 
sacred writer, who may be supposed to violate logical 
rules, of which he is unconscious. For example, the 
argument of Eom. iii. 19, may be classed by the 
logicians under some head of fallacy (' Ex aliquo non 
sequitur omnis') ; the series of inferences which follow 
one another in Rom. i. 16 — 18, are for the most part 
different aspects or statements of the same truth. 
So in Rom. i. 32 the climax rather appears to be an 
anticlimax. But to dwell on these things interferes 
with the true perception of the Apostle's meaning 
which is not contained in the repetitions of -yap by 
which it is hooked together ; nor are we accurately to 
weigh the proportions expressed by his ov ^xovov — 
aWa Koi ; or iroX\(o /.laWov ; neither need we suppose 
that where fih' is found alone, there was a reason for the 
omission of Se, (Rom. i. 8; iii. 2); or that the opposition 
of words and sentences is always the opposition of 
ideas (Rom. v. 7 ; x. 10). It is true that these and similar 
forms or distinctions of language, admit of translation 

Oil the Interj)refation of Scripture. 401 

into English ; and in eveiy case tlie interpreter may 
find some point of view in which the simplest truth of 
feeling may be drawn out in an antithetical or argu- 
mentative form. But whether these points of view 
were in the Apostle's mind at the time of writing may 
be doubted ; the real meaning, or kernel, seems to he 
deeper and to be more within. When we pass from 
the study of each verse to survey the whole at a greater 
distance, the form of thought is again seen to be unim- 
portant in comparison of the truth which is contained 
in it. The same remark may be extended to the 
opposition, not only of words, but of ideas, which is 
found in the Scriptures generally, and almost seems 
to be inherent in human language itself. The law 
is opposed to faith, good to evil, the spirit to the 
flesh, light to darkness, the world to the believer; 
the sheep are set ' on his right hand, but the goats on 
the left.' The influence of this logical opposition 
has been great and not always without abuse in prac- 
tice. For the opposition is one of ideas only which is 
not realized in fact. Experience shows us not that 
there are two classes of men animated by two oppos- 
ing principles, but an infinite number of classes or 
individuals from the lowest depth of misery and sin to 
the highest perfection of which human nature is ca- 
pable, the best not wholly good, the worst not entirely 
evil. But the figure or mode of representation changes 
these difierences of degree into differences of kind. 
And we often think and speak and act in reference both 
to ourselves and others, as though the figure were 
altogether a reality. 

Other questions arise out of the analysis of the 
modes of thought of Scripture. Unless we are willing 
to use words without inquiring into their meaning, it is 
necessary for us to arrange them in some relation 
to our own minds. The modes of thought of the 
Old Testament are not the same with those of the 
New, and those of the New are only partially the 

402 On the Interjpr elation of Scripture. 

same with those in use among ourselves at the present 
day. The education of the human mind may be 
traced as clearly from the Book of Genesis to the 
Epistles of St. Paul, as from Homer to Plato and 
Aristotle. When we hear St. Paul speaking of 
' body and soul and spirit/ we know that such lan- 
guage as this would not occur in the Books of Moses 
or in the Prophet Isaiah. It has the colour of a later 
age, in which abstract terms have taken the place of 
expressions derived from material objects. When we 
proceed further to compare these or other words or 
expressions of St. Paul with ' the body and mind,' or 
' mind' and ' matter,' which is a distinction, not only of 
philosophy, but of common language among ourselves, 
it is not easy at once to determine the relation between 
them. Familiar as is the sound of both expressions, 
many questions arise when we begin to compare them. 

This is the metaphysical difficulty in the Interpre- 
tation of Scripture, which it is better not to ignore, 
because the consideration of it is necessary to the 
understanding of many passages, and also because it 
may return upon us in the form of materialism or 
scepticism. To some who are not aware how little 
words afiect the nature of things it may seem to raise 
speculations of a very serious kind. Their doubts 
would, perhaps, find expression in some such excla- 
mations as the following — ' How is religion possible 
when modes of thought are shifting ? and words 
changing their meaning, and statements of doctrine 
though ' starched' with philosophy, are in perpetual 
danger of dissolution from metaphysical analj^sis ?' 

The answer seems to be, that Christian truth is not 
dependent on the fixedness of modes of thought. The 
metaphysician may analyse the ideas of the mind just 
as the physiologist may analyse the powers or parts 
of the bodily frame, yet morality and social life still 
go on, as in the body digestion is uninterrupted. 
That is not an illustration only; it represents thefiict. 
Though we had no words for mind, matter, soul. 

On the Interpretation of ScrijAure. 403 

body, and the like, Christianity would remain the 
same. This is obvious, whether we think of the case 
of the poor, who understand such distinctions very 
imperfectly, or of those nations of the earth, who have 
no precisely corresponding division of ideas. It is 
not of that subtle or evanescent character which is 
liable to be lost in shifting the use of terms. Indeed, 
it is an advantage at times to discard these terms with 
the view of getting rid of the oppositions to which 
they give rise. No metaphysical analysis can prevent ; 
'our taking up the cross and following Christ,' or receiv- 
ing the kingdom of heaven as little children. To analyse 
the ' trichotomy' of St. Paul is interesting as a chapter 
in the history of the human mind and necessary as a 
part of Biblical exegesis, but it has nothing to do with 
the religion of Christ. Christian duties may be en- 
forced, and the life of Christ may be the centre of our 
thoughts, whether we speak of reason and faith, of 
soul and body, or of mind and matter, or adopt a mode 
of speech wdiich dispenses with any of these divisions. 
Connected with the modes of thought or represen- 
tation in Scripture, are the figures of speech of 
Scripture, about which the same question may be 
asked : ' What division can we make between the 
figure and the reality ?' And the answer seems to be 
of the same kind, that ' AVe cannot precisely draw the 
line between them.' Language, and especially tlie 
language of Scripture, does not admit of any sharp 
distinction. The simple expressions of one age become 
the allegories or figures of another ; many of those in 
the New Testament are taken from the Old. But neither 
is there anything really essential in the form of these 
figures ; nay, the literal application of many of them 
has been a great stumblingblock to the reception of 
Christianity. A recent commentator on Scripture 
appears willing to peril religion on the literal truth of 
such an expression as * AYe shall be caught up to meet 
the Lord in tlie air.' Would he be equally ready to 

D D 2 

404 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

stake Christianity on the literal meaning of tlie words, 
' Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not 
quenched ?' 

Of what has been said, this is the sum ; — ' That 
Scripture, like other books, has one meaning, which is 
to be gathered from itself without reference to the 
adaptations of Fathers or Divines ; and without regard 
to a priori notions about its nature and origin. It is 
to be interpreted like other books, with attention to 
the character of its authors, and the prevailing state 
of civilization and knowledge, with allowance for 
peculiarities of style and language, and modes of 
thought and figures of speech. Yet not without a 
sense that as w^e read there grows upon us the 
witness of God in the world, anticipating in a rude 
and primitive age the truth that was to be, shining 
more and more unto the perfect day in the life of 
Christ, which again is reflected from different points 
of view in the teaching of His Apostles.' 

It has been a principal aim of the preceding pages 
to distinguish the interpretation from the application 
of Scripture. Many of the errors alluded to, arise out 
of a confusion of the two. The present is nearer to 
us than the past ; the circumstances which surround 
us pre-occupy our thoughts ; it is only by an eflbrt 
that we reproduce the ideas, or events, or persons of 
other ages. And thus, quite naturally, almost by a 
law of the human mind, the application of Scripture 
takes the place of its original meaning. And the 
question is, not how to get rid of this natural ten- 
dency, but how we ma}^ have the true use of it. For 
it cannot be got rid of, or rather is one of the chief 
instruments of religious usefulness in the world : 
' Ideas must be given through something ;' those of 
religion find their natural expression in the words of 
Scripture, in the adaptation of which to another state 

On the Tnierjiretai'wn of Scripture. 405 

of life it is liardly possible that the first intention of 
the writers should be always preserved. Interpreta- 
tion is the province of few ; it requires a finer per- 
ception of language., and a higher degree of cultiva- 
tion than is attained by the majority of mankind. 
But applications are made by all, from the philosopher 
reading ' God in History,' to the poor woman who 
finds in them a response to her prayers, and the solace 
of her daily life. In the hour of death we do not 
want critical explanations; in most cases, those to 
whom they Avould be offered are incapable of under- 
standing them. A few words, breathing the sense of 
the whole Christian world, such as ' I know that my 
Redeemer liveth' (though the exact meaning of them 
may be doubtful to the Hebrew scholar) ; ' I shall go 
to him, but he shall not return to me ;' touch a chord 
which would never be reached by the most skilful ex- 
position of the argument of one of St. Paul's Epistles. 
There is also a use of Scripture in education and 
literature. This literary use, though secondary to 
the religious one, is not unimportant. It supplies a 
common language to the educated and uneducated, in 
which the best and highest thoughts of both are 
expressed ; it is a medium between the abstract 
notions of the one and the simple feelings of the 
other. To the poor especially, it conveys in the form 
which they are most capable of receiving, the lesson of 
history and life. The beauty and power of speech 
and writing would be greatly impaired, if the Scrip- 
tures ceased to be known or used among us. The 
orator seems to catch from them a sort of inspiration ; 
in the simple words of Scripture which he stamps 
anew, the philosopher often finds his most pregnant 
expressions. If modern times have been richer in 
the wealth of abstract thought, the contribution of 
earlier ages to the mind of the world has not been 
less, but, perhaps greater, in supplying the poetry of 
language. There is no such treasury of instruments 

406 On the Interpretation of Script are. 

and materials as Scripture. The loss of Homer, or the 
loss of Shakespear, would have affected the whole 
series of Greek or English authors who follow. But 
the disappearance of the Bible from the books which 
the world contains, would produce results far greater ; 
Ave can scarcely conceive the degree in which it would 
alter literature and language — the ideas of the edu- 
cated and philosophical, as well as the feelings and 
habits of mind of the poor. If it has been said, with 
an allowable hyperbole, that .'Homer is Greece,' 
with much more trutli may it be said, that ' the Bible 
is Christendom.' 

Many by whom considerations of this sort will be 
little understood, may, nevertheless, recognise the use 
made of the Old Testament in the New. The religion 
of Christ was first taught by an application of the 
words of the Psalms and the Prophets. Our Lord 
Himself sanctions this application. 'Can there be a 
better use of Scripture than that which is made by 
Scripture ?' ' Or any more likely method of teaching 
the trutlis of Cliristianity than that by which they 
were first taught ?' For it may be argued that the 
critical interpretation of Scripture is a device almost 
of yesterday ; it is the vocation of the scholar or 
philosopher, not of the Apostle or Prophet. The new 
truth which was introduced into the Old Testament, 
rather than the old truth which was found there, was 
the salvation and the conversion of the world. There 
are many quotations from the Psalms and the 
Prophets in the Epistles, in which the meaning is 
quickened or spiritualized, but hardly any, probably 
none, which is based on the original sense or con- 
text. That is not so singular a phenomenon as 
may at first sight be imagined. It may appear 
strange to us that Scripture should be inter- 
preted in Scripture, in a manner not altogether in 
agreement with modern criticism ; but would it 
not be more strange that it should be interpreted 
otherwise than in agreement with the ideas of 

On the Interpretation of Scripture, 407 

the age or country in which it was written ? The 
observation that there is such an agreement, leads to 
two conclusions which have a bearing on our present 
subject. First, it is a reason for not insisting on the 
applications which the New Testament makes of 
passages in the Old, as their original meaning. 
Secondly, it gives authority and precedent for the use 
of similar applications in our own day. 

But, on the other hand, though interwoven with 
literature, though common to all ages of tlie Church, 
though sanctioned by our Lord and His Apostles, it is 
easy to see that sucli an employment of Scripture is 
liable to error and perversion. For it may not only 
receive a new meaning ; it may be applied in a spirit 
alien to itself. It may become the symbol of fanati- 
cism, the cloke of malice, the disguise of policy. 
Cromwell at Drogheda, quoting Scripture to his 
soldiers ; the well-known attack on the Puritans in 
the State Service for the Eestoration, ' Not every one 
that saitli unto me. Lord, Lord ;' the reply of the 
Venetian Ambassador to the suggestion of Wolsey, 
that Venice should take a lead in Italy, ' which was 
only the Earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof/ 
are examples of such uses. In former times, it was a 
real and not an imaginary fear, that the wars of the 
Lord in the Old Testament might arouse a fire in the 
bosom of Franks and Huns. In our own day such 
dangers have passed away; it is only a figure of 
speech when the preacher says, ' Gird on thy sword, 
thou most mighty.' The warlike passions of men 
are not roused by quotations from Scripture, nor can 
states of life such as slavery or polygamy which 
belong to a past age, be defended, at least in England, 
by the example of the Old Testament. The danger or 
error is of another kind ; more subtle, but hardly less 
real. For if we are permitted to apply Scripture 
under the pretence of interpreting it, the language of 
Scripture becomes only a mode of expressing the 
public feehng or opinion of our own day. Any 

408 On the InierjJretation of Scrijjfiu'e. 

passing phase of politics or art, or spurious plii- 
lanthropy, may have a kind of Scriptural authority. 
The words that are used are the words of the Prophet 
or Evangelist, but we stand behind and adapt them to 
our purpose. Hence it is necessary to consider the 
limits and manner of a just adaptation ; how much 
may be allowed for the sake of ornament ; how far the 
Scripture, in all its details, may be regarded as an 
allegory of human life — where the true analogy 
begins — how far the interpretation of Scripture will 
serve as a corrective to its practical abuse. 

Truth seems to require that we should separate 
mere adaptations, from the original meaning of Scrip- 
ture. It is not honest or reasonable to confound 
illustration with argument, in theology, any more than 
in other subjects. For example, if a preacher chooses 
to represent the condition of a church or of an indi- 
vidual in the present day, under the figure of Elijah 
left alone among the idolatrous tribes of Israel, such 
an allusion is natural enough ; but if he goes on to 
argue that individuals are therefore justified in re- 
maining in what they believe to be an erroneous com- 
munion — that is a mere appearance of argument 
which ought not to have the slightest weight with a 
man of sense. Such a course may indeed be perfectly 
justifiable, but not on the ground that a prophet of 
the Lord once did so, two thousand five hundred years 
ago. Not in this sense were the lives of the Prophets 
written for our instruction. There are many impor- 
tant morals conveyed by them, but only so far as they 
themselves represent universal principles of justice 
and love. These universal principles they clothe with 
flesh and blood : they show them to us written on the 
hearts of men of like passions with ourselves. The 
prophecies, again, admit of many applications to the 
Christian Church or to the Christian life. There is 
no harm in speaking of the Church as the Spiritual 
Israel, or in using the imagery of Isaiah respecting 

Oil the Interpretation of Scripture. 400 

Messiah's kingdom, as the type of good things to 
come. But when it is gravely urged, that from such 
passages as ' Kings shall be thy nursing fathers,' we 
are to collect the relations of Church and State, or 
from the pictorial description of Isaiah, that it is to 
be inferred there will be a reign of Christ on earth — 
that is a mere assumption of the forms of reasoning 
by tlie imagination. Nor is it a healthful or manly 
tone of feeling which depicts the political opposition 
to the Church in our own day, under imagery which 
is borrowed from the desolate Sion of the captivity. 
Scripture is apt to come too readily to the lips, when 
we are pouring out our own weaknesses, or enlarging 
on some favourite theme — perhaps idealizing in the 
language of prophecy the feebleness of preaching or 
missions in the present day, or from the want of 
something else to say. In many discussions on these 
and similar subjects, the position of the Jewish King, 
Church, Priest, has led to a confusion, partly caused 
by the use of similar words in modern senses among 
ourselves. The King or Queen of England may be 
called the Anointed of the Lord, but we should not 
therefore imply that the attributes of sovereignty are 
the same as those which belonged to King David. 
All these are figures of speech, the employment of 
Avliich is too common, and has been injurious to 
religion, because it prevents our looking at the facts 
of history or life as they truly are. 

This is the first step towards a more truthful use of 
Scripture in practice — the separation of adaptation 
from interpretation. No one who is engaged in 
preaching or in religious instruction can be required 
to give up Scripture language ; it is the common ele- 
ment in which his thoughts and those of his hearers 
move. But he may be asked to distinguish the words 
of Scripture from the truths of Scripture — the means 
from the end. The least expression of Scripture is 
weighty ; it affects the minds of the hearers in a way 

410 Oil the Iiiterjiretation of Scripture. 

tliat no otlier language can. Whatever responsibility 
attaches to idle words, attaches in still greater degree 
to the idle or fallacious use of Scripture terms. And 
there is surely a want of proper reverence for Scrip- 
ture, when we confound the weakest and feeblest ap- 
plications of its words with their true meaning — when 
we avail ourselves of their natural power to point 
them against some enemy — when we divert the eter- 
nal words of charity and truth into a defence of some 
passing opinion. For not only in the days of the 
Pharisees, but in our own, the letter has been taking 
the place of the spirit ; the least matters, of the greatest, 
and the primary meaning has been lost in the secon- 
dary use. 

Other simple cautions may also be added. The 
applications of Scripture should be harmonized and, 
as it were, interpenetrated with the spirit of the 
(3-ospel, the whole of which should be in every part ; 
though the words may receive a new sense, the new 
sense ought to be in agreement with the general truth. 
They should be used to bring home practical precepts, 
not to send the imagination on a voyage of discovery ; 
they are not the real foundation of our i'aith in another 
world, nor can they, by pleasant pictures, add to our 
knowledge of it. They should not confound the acci- 
dents with the essence of religion — the restrictions 
and burdens of the Jewish law with the freedom of 
the Gospel — the things which Moses allowed for the 
hardness of the heart, with the perfection of the teach- 
ing of Christ. They should avoid the form of argu- 
ments, or they will insensibly be used, or understood 
to mean more than they really do. They should be 
subjected to an overruling principle, which is the heart 
and conscience of the Christian teacher, who indeed 
' stands behind them,' not to make them the vehicles 
of his own opinions, but as the expressions of justice, 
and truth, and love. 

And here the critical interpretation of Scripture 

0)1 the Interpretation of Scripture. 411 

comes in and exercises a corrective influence on its 
popular use. We have already admitted that criticism 
is not for the multitude ; it is not that which the Scrip- 
ture terms the Gospel preached to the poor. Yet, 
indirectly passing from the few to the many, it has 
borne a great part in the Reformation of religion. It 
has cleared the eye of the mind to understand the 
original meaning. It was a sort of criticism which 
supported the struggle of the sixteenth century 
against the Roman Catholic Church ; it is criti- 
cism that is leadin": Protestants to doubt whe- 
ther the doctrine that the Pope is Antichrist, which 
has descended from the same period, is really discove- 
rable in Scripture. Even the isolated thinker, against 
whom the religious world is taking up arms, has an 
influence on his opponents The force of observa- 
tions, which are based on reason and fact, remains 
when the tide of religious or party feeling is gone 
down. Criticism has also a healing influence in clear- 
ing away what may be termed the Sectarianism of 
knowledge. Without criticism it would be impossible 
to reconcile History and Science with Revealed Reli- 
gion ; they must remain for ever in a hostile and 
defiant attitude. Instead of being like other records, 
subject to the conditions of knowledge which existed 
in an early stage of the world, Scripture would be re- 
garded on the one side as the work of organic Inspi- 
ration, and as a lying imposition on the other. 

The real unity of Scripture, as of man, has also a 
relation to our present subject. Amid all the differ- 
ences of modes of thought and speech which have 
existed in different ages, of which much is said in our 
own day, there is a common element in human nature 
which bursts through these differences and remains 
unchanged, because akin to the first instincts of our 
being. The simple feeling of truth and right is the 
same to the Greek or Hindoo as to ourselves. How- 
ever great may be the diversities of human character, 

412 Oil the Interjn'etation of Scripture. 

there is a point at which these diversities end, and 
unity begins to appear. Now this admits of an ap- 
plication to the books of Scripture, as well as to the 
world generally. Written at many different times, in 
more than one language, some of them in fragments, 
they, too, have a common element of which the 
preacher may avail himself. This element is two- 
fold, partly divine and partly human ; the revelation 
of the truth and righteousness of God, and the cry of 
the human heart towards Him. Every part of Scrip- 
ture tends to raise us above ourselves — to give us a 
deeper sense of the feebleness of man, and of the 
wisdom and power of God. It has a sort of kindred, 
as Plato would say, with religious truth everywhere 
in the world. It agrees also with the imperfect stages 
of knowledge and faith in human nature, and answers 
to its inarticulate cries. The universal truth easily 
breaks through the accidents of time and place in 
which it is involved. Although we cannot apply 
Jewish institutions to the Christian world, or venture 
in reliance on some text to resist the tide of civilization 
on which we are borne, yet it remains, nevertheless, to 
us, as well as to the Jews and first Christians, that 
' Righteousness exalteth a nation,' and that ' love is 
the fulfilling not of the Jewish law only, but of all 

In some cases, we have only to enlarge the meaning 
of Scripture to apply it even to the novelties and 
peculiarities of our own times. The world changes, 
but the human heart remains the same ; events and 
details are different, but the principle by which they 
are governed, or the rule by which we are to act, is 
not different. When, for example, our Saviour says, 
' Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make 
you free,' it is not likely that these words would have 
conveyed to the minds of the Jews who heard Him 
any notion of the perplexities of doubt or inquiry. 
Yet we cannot suppose that our Saviour, were He to 

On the Interjoretatiou of Scrijjtnre. 413 

come again upon earth, would refuse tlius to extend 
them. The Apostle St. Paul, when describing the 
Gospel, which is to the Greek foolishness, speaks also 
of a hio-her wisdom which is known to those who are 
perfect. Neither is it unfair for us to apply this pas- 
sage to that reconcilement of faith and knowledge, 
which may be termed Christian philosophy, as the 
nearest equivalent to its language in our own day. 
Such words, again, as ' Why seek ye the living among 
the dead ?' admit of a great variety of adaptations 
to the circumstances of our own time. Many of 
these adaptations have a real germ in the meaning of 
the words. The precept, ' Render unto Csesar the 
things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that 
are God's,' may be taken generally as expressing the 
necessity of distinguishing the divine and human — the 
thino-s that belono- to faith and the thin£rs tliat beloncr 
to experience. It is worth remarking in the applica- 
tion made of these words by Lord Bacon, ' Da fidei 
quse fidei sunt ;' that, although tlie terms are altered, 
yet the circumstance that the form of the sentence is 
borrowed from Scripture gives tliem point and weight. 
The portion of Scripture which more than any 
other is immediately and universally applicable to our 
own times is, doubtless, that which is contained in the 
words of Christ Himself. The reason is that they are 
words of the most universal import. They do not 
relate to the circumstances of the time, but to the 
common life of all mankind. You cannot extract 
from them a political creed ; only, ' Render unto 
C?esar the things that are Csesar's,' and ' The Scribes 
and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat ; whatsoever, there- 
fore, they say unto you do, but after their works do 
not.' They present to us a standard of truth and 
duty, such as no one can at once and immediately 
practise — such as, in its perfection, no one has fulfilled 
in this world. But tliis idealism does not interfere 
witli their influence as a religious lesson. Ideals, 

414 On the Inter-relation of Scrijjfure. 

even though unrealized, have effect on our daily life. 
The preacher of the Gospel is, or 'ought to be, aware 
that his calls to repentance, his standard of obliga- 
tions, his lamentations over his own shortcomings or 
those of others, do not at once convert hundreds or 
thousands, as on the day of Pentecost. Yet it does 
not follow that they are thrown away, or that it would 
be well to substitute for them mere prudential or 
economical lessons, lectures on health or sanitary im- 
provement. For they tend to raise men above them- 
selves, providing them with Sabbaths as well as work- 
ing days, giving them a taste of ' the good word of God' 
and of ' the powers of the world to come.' Human 
nature needs to be idealized ; it seems as if it took a 
dislike to itself when presented always in its ordinary 
attire ; it lives on in the hope of becoming better. And 
the image or hope of a better life — the vision of Christ 
crucified — which is held up to it, doubtless has an in- 
fluence ; not like the rushing mighty wind of the da}" 
of Pentecost ; it may rather be compared to the 
leaven ' which a woman took and hid in three measures 
of meal, till the whole was leavened.' 

The Parables of our Lord are a portion of the New 
Testament, which we may apply in the most easy and 
literal manner. The persons in them are the persons 
among whom we live and move ; there are times and 
occasions at which the truths symbolized by them 
come home to the hearts of all who have ever been 
impressed by religion. We have been prodigal 
sons returning to our Father; servants to whom 
talents have been entrusted ; labourers in the vineyard 
inclined to murmur at our lot, when compared with 
that of others, yet receiving every man his due ; well- 
satisfied Pharisees ; repentant Publicans : — we have 
received the seed, and the cares of the world have 
choked it — we hope also at times that we have found 
the pearl of great price after sweeping the house — we 
are ready like the Good Samaritan to show kindness 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 415 

to all mankind. Of these circumstances of life or 
phases of mind, which are typified by the parables, 
most Christians have experience. We may go on to 
apply many of them further to the condition of nations 
and churches. Such a treasury has Christ provided 
us of things new and old, which refer to all time 
and all mankind — may we not say in His own words — 
* Because He is the Son of Man ?' 

There is no language of Scripture which penetrates 
the individual soul, and embraces all the world in the 
arms of its love, in the same manner as that of Christ 
Himself. Yet the Epistles contain lessons wliich are 
not found in the Gospels, or, at least, not expressed 
with the same degree of clearness. For the Epistles 
are nearer to actual life — they relate to the circum- 
stances of the first believers, to their struggles with 
the world without, to their temptations and divisions 
from within — their subject is not only the doctrine of 
the Christian religion, but the business of the early 
Church. And although their circumstances are not 
our circumstances — we are not afflicted or persecuted, 
or driven out of the world, but in possession of the 
blessings, and security, and property of an esta- 
blished religion — j^t there is a Christian spirit which 
infuses itself into all circumstances, of which they are 
a pure and living source. It is impossible to gather 
from a few fragmentary and apparently not always 
consistent expressions, how the Communion was cele- 
brated, or the Church ordered, what was the relative 
position of Presbyters and Deacons, or the nature of 
the gift of tongues, as a rule for the Church in after 
ages ; — such inquiries have no certain answer, and at 
the best, are only the subject of honest curiosit}^ But 
the words, ' Charity never faileth,' and ' Though I 
speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and 
have not charity, I am nothing,' — these have a voice 
which reaches to the end of time. There are no 
questions of meats and drinks no\v-a-days, yet the 

416 On the Interpret ati07i of Scripture. 

noble words of the Apostle remain : ' If meat make 
my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while 
the world standeth, lest I make my brother to of- 
fend.' Moderation in controversy, toleration towards 
opponents, or erring members, is a virtue which has 
been thought by many to belong to the develop- 
ment and not to the origin of Christianity, and which 
is rarely found in the commencement of a religion. 
But lessons of toleration may be gathered from the 
Apostle, which have not yet been learned either by theo- 
logians or by mankind in general. The persecutions 
and troubles which awaited the Apostle, no longer 
await us ; we cannot, therefore, without unreality, 
except, perhaps, in a very few cases, appropriate his 
words, ' I have fought tlie good fight, I have finished 
my course, I have kept the faith.' But that other text 
still sounds gently in our ears : ' My strength is per- 
fected in weakness,' and ' when I am weak, then am I 
strong.' We cannot apply to ourselves the language 
of authority in which the Apostle speaks of himself as 
an ambassador for Christ, without something like bad 
taste. But it is not altogether an imaginary hope 
that those of us who are ministers of Christ, may 
attain to a real imitation of his great diligence, of his 
sympathy with others, and consideration for them — of 
his willingness to spend and be spent in his Master's 

Such are a few instances of the manner in which 
the analogy of faith enables us to apply the words of 
Christ and His Apostles, with a strict regard to their 
original meaning. But the Old Testament has also 
its peculiar lessons which are not conveyed with 
equal point or force in the New. The beginnings of 
human history are themselves a lesson having a fresh- 
ness as of the early dawn. There are forms of evil 
against which the Prophets and the prophetical spirit 
of the Law carry on a warfare, in terms almost too bold 
for the way of life of modern times. There, more 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 417 

plainly than in any other portion of Scripture, is ex- 
pressed the antagonism of outward and inward, of 
ceremonial and moral, of mercy and sacrifice. There 
all the masks of hypocrisy are rudely torn asunder, in 
which an unthinking world allows itself to be dis- 
guised. There the relations of rich and poor in the 
sight of Grod, and their duties towards one anotlier, are 
most clearly enunciated. There the religion of 
suffering first appears — ' adversity, the blessing' of 
the Old Testament, as well as of the New. There the 
sorrows and aspirations of the soul find their deepest 
expression, and also their consolation. The feeble 
person has an image of himself in the ' bruised reed ;' 
the suffering servant of God passes into the ' beloved 
one, in whom my soul delighteth.' Even the latest 
and most desolate phases of the human mind are re- 
flected in Job and Ecclesiastes ; yet not without the 
solemn assertion that ' to fear God and keep his com- 
mandments' is the beginning and end of all things. 

It is true that there are examples in the Old Testa- 
ment which were not written for our instruction, and 
that, in some instances,, precepts or commands are at- 
tributed to God Himself, which must be regarded as 
relative to the state of knowledge which then existed 
of the Divine nature, or given ' for the hardness of 
men's hearts.' It cannot be denied that such passages 
of Scripture are liable to misunderstanding ; the 
spirit of the Old Covenanters, althougij^ no longer 
appealing to the action of Samuel, ' hewing Agag in 
pieces before the Lord in Gilgal,' is not altogether 
extinguished. And a community of recent origin in 
America found their doctrine of polygainy on the 
Old Testament. But the poor generally read the 
Bible unconsciously ; they take the good, and catch 
the prevailing spirit, without stopping to reason 
whether this or that practice is sanctioned by the 
custom or example of Scripture. The child is only 
struck by the impiety of the children who mocked the 

E E 

418 On the Inteiyretation of Scripture. 

prophet ; lie does not think of the severity of the 
punishment which is inflicted on them. And the 
poor, in this respect, are much like children ; their 
reflection on the morality or immorality of characters 
or events is suppressed by reverence for Scripture. 
The Christian teacher has a sort of tact by which he 
guides them to perceive only the spirit of the Grospel 
everywhere ; they read in the Psalms, of David's sin 
and repentance ; of the never-failing goodness of God 
to him, and his never-failing trust in Him, not of his 
imprecations against his enemies. Such difficulties 
are greater in theory and on paper, than in the 
management of a school or parish. They are found to 
affect the half-educated, rather than either the poor, or 
those who are educated in a higher sense. To be 
above such difficulties is the happiest condition of 
human life and knowledge, or to be below them ; to see, 
or think we see, how they may be reconciled with 
Divine power and wisdom, or not to see how they are 
apparently at variance with them. 

^ ^- . 

Some application of the preceding subject may be 

further made to theology and life. 

Let us introduce this concluding inquiry with two 

First, it may be observed, that a change in some of 
the prevailing modes of interpretation is not so much 
a matter of expediency as of necessity. The original 
meaning of Scripture is beginning to be clearly un- 
derstood. But the apprehension of the original 
meaning is inconsistent with the reception of a typical 
or conventional one. The time will come when edu- 
cated men will be no more able to believe that the 
words, " Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Matth. 
ii. 15 ; Hosea xi. i), were intended by the prophet to 
refer to the return of Joseph and Mary from Egypt, 
than they are now able to believe the Roman Catholic 
explanation of Gen. iii. 15, ' Ipsa conteret caput 

Oti the Interpretation of Scnpture. 419 

tuum.' They will no more think that the first chap- 
ters of Genesis relate the same tale which Geology 
and Ethnology unfold than they now think the mean- 
ing of Joshua X. 12, 13, to he in accordance with 
Galileo's discovery. 

From the circumstance that in former ages there 
has been a four-fold or a seven-fold Interpretation of 
Scripture, we cannot argue to the possibility of up- 
holding any other than the original one in our own. 
The mystical explanations of Origen or Philo were 
not seen to be mystical ; the reasonings of Aquinas 
and Calvin were not supposed to go beyond the letter 
of the text. They have now become the subject of 
apology ; it is justly said that we should not judge the 
greatness of the Fathers or Reformers by their suit- 
ableness to our own day. But this defence of them 
shows that their explanations of Scripture are no 
longer tenable ; they belong to a way of thinking and 
speaking which was once diffused over the world, but 
has now passed away. And what we give up as a 
general principle we shall find it impossible to main- 
tain partially, e. g., in the types of the Mosaic Law 
and the double meanings of prophecy, at least, in any 
sense in which it is not equally applicable to all deep 
and suggestive writings. 

The same observation may be applied to the histori- 
cal criticism of Scripture. From the fact that Pale}' 
or Butler were regarded in their generation as supply- 
ing a triumphant answer to the enemies of Scripture, 
we cannot argue that their answer will be satisfactory 
to those who inquire into such subjects in our own. 
Criticism has far more power than it formerly had ; it 
has spread itself over ancient, and even modern, his- 
tory ; it extends to the thoughts and ideas of men as 
well as to words and facts ; it has also a great place in 
education. Whether the habit of mind which has 
been formed in classical studies will not go on to 
Scripture ; whether Scripture can be made an excep- 

E E 2 

420 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

tion to other ancient writings, now that the nature of 
both is more understood ; whether in the fuller light 
of history and science the views of the last century 
will hold out — these are questions respecting which 
the course of religious opinion in the past does not 
afford the means of truly judging. 

Secondly, it has to be considered whether the intel- 
lectual forms under which Christianity has been de- 
scribed may not also be in a state of transition and 
resolution, in this respect contrasting with the never- 
changing truth of the Christian life, (i Cor. xiii. 8.) 
Looking backwards at past ages, we experience a kind 
of amazement at the minuteness of theological distinc- 
tions, and also at their permanence. They seem to 
have borne a part in the education of the Christian 
world, in an age when language itself had also a 
greater influence than now-a-days. It is admitted 
that these distinctions are not observed in the New 
Testament, and are for the most part of a later growth. 
But little is gained by setting up theology against 
Scripture, or Scripture against theology ; the Bible 
against the Church, or the Church against the Bible. 
At different periods either has been a bulwark against 
some form of error : either has tended to correct the 
abuse of the other. A true inspiration guarded the 
writers of the New Testament from Gnostic or Mani- 
chean tenets ; at a later stage, a sound instinct pre- 
vented the Church from dividing the humanity and 
Divinity of Christ. It may be said that the spirit 
of Christ forbids us to determine beyond what is 
written; and the decision of the council of 
Nicsea has been described by an eminent EngHsh pre- 
late as 'the greatest misfortune that ever befel the 
Christian world.' That is, perhaps, true; yet a dif- 
ferent decision would have been a greater misfortlme. 
Nor does there seem any reason to suppose that the 
human mind could have been arrested in its theolo- 
gical course. It is a mistake to imagine that the 

On the Infrrjjretation of Scrij)ture. 421 

dividing and splitting of words is owing to the de- 
pravity of the human heart ; was it not rather an in- 
tellectual movement (the oul}'" phenomenon of progress 
then going on among men) which led, by a sort of 
necessity, some to go forward to the completion of the 
system, while it left others to stand aside ? A veil 
was on the human understandins: in the o-reat contro- 
versies which absorbed the Church in earlier ages ; 
the cloud which the combatants themselves raised 
intercepted the view. They did not see — they could 
not have imagined — that there was a world which lay 
beyond the range of the controversy. 

And noAv, as the Interpretation of Scripture is re- 
ceiving another character, it seems that distinctions of 
theology, which were in great measure based on old 
Interpretations, are beginning to fade away. A change 
is observable in the manner in which doctrines are 
stated and defended ; it is no longer held sufficient to 
rest them on texts of Scripture, one, two, or more, 
which contain, or appear to contain, similar words or 
ideas. They are connected more closely with our 
moral nature ; extreme consequences are shunned ; 
large allowances are made for the ignorance of man- 
kind. It is held that there is truth on both sides ; 
about many cjuestions there is a kind of union of op- 
posites ; others are admitted to have been verbal only ; 
all are regarded in the light which is thrown upon them 
by church history and religious experience. A theory 
has lately been put forward, apparently as a defence 
of the Christian faith, which cleuies the objective cha- 
racter of any of them. And there are other signs 
that times are changing, and we are changing too. 
It would be scarcely possible at present to revive the 
interest which was felt less than twenty years ago in 
the doctrine of Baptismal Eegeneration ; nor would 
the arguments by which it was supported or impugned 
have the meaning which they once had. The com- 
munion of the Lord's Supper is also ceasing, at least 

422 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

in the Church of England, to be a focus or centre of 
disunion — 

' Our greatest love turned to our greatest hate.' 

A silence is observable on some other points of doc- 
trine around which controversies swarmed a g-eneration 
ago. Persons begin to ask what was the real differ- 
ence which divided the two parties. They are no 
longer within the magic circle, but are taking up a 
position external to it. They have arrived at an age 
of reflection, and begin to speculate on the action and 
reaction, the irritation and counter-irritation, of reli- 
gious forces ; it is a common observation that ' revi- 
vals are not permanent ;' the movement is criticised 
even by those who are subject to its influence. In 
the present state of the human mind, any considera- 
tion of these subjects, wdiether from the highest or 
lowest or most moderate point of view, is unfavourable 
to the stability of dogmatical systems, because it rouses 
inquiry into the meaning of words. To the sense of 
this is probably to be attributed the reserve on mat- 
ters of doctrine and controversy which characterizes 
the present day, compared with the theological activity 
of twenty years ago. 

\ These reflections bring us back to the question with 
which we began — ' What effect will the critical inter- 
pretation of Scri23ture have on theology and on life ?' 
Their tendency is to show that the result is beyond 
our control, and that the world is not unprepared for 
it. More things than at first sight appear are moving 
towards the same end. Eeligion often bids us think 
of ourselves, especially in later life, as, each one in his 
appointed place, carrying on a work which is fashioned 
within by unseen hands. The theologian, too, may 
have peace in the thought, that he is subject to the 
conditions of his age rather than one of its moving 
powers. When he hears theological inquiry censured 
as tending to create doubt and confusion, he knows 
very well that the cause of this is not to be sought in 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 423 

the writings of so-called rationalists or critics who are 
disliked partly because they unveil the age to itself; 
but in the opposition of reason and feeling, of the past 
and the present, in the conflict between the Calvinistic 
tendencies of an elder generation, and the influences 
which even in the same family naturally affect the 

This distraction of the human mind between adverse 
influences and associations, is a fact which we should 
have to accept and make the best of, whatever con- 
sequences might seem to follow to individuals or 
Churches. It is not to be regarded as a merely 
heathen notion that / truth is to be desired for its own 
sake even though no ' good' result from it.' As a 
Christian paradox it may be said, ' AVhat hast thou 
to do with 'good;' follow thou Me.' But the Christian 
revelation does not require of us this Stoicism in most 
cases; it rather shows how good and truth are gene- 
rally coincident. Even in this life, there are number- 
less links which unite moral good with intellectual 
truth. It is hardly too much to say that the one is 
but a narrower form of the other. Truth is to the 
Avorld what holiness of life is to the individual — to 
man collectively the source of justice and peace and 

There are many ways in which the connexion be- 
tween truth and good may be traced in the interpre- 
tation of Scripture. Is it a mere chimera that the 
different sections of Christendom may meet on the 
common ground of the New Testament? Or that 
the individual may be urged by the vacancy and un- 
profitableness of old traditions to make the Gospel his 
own — a life of Christ in the soul, instead of a theory 
of Christ which is in a book or written down ? Or 
that in missions to the heathen Scripture may become 
the expression of universal truths rather than of the 
tenets of particular men or churches ? That would 
remove many obstacles to the reception of Christianity. 

424 On the Tnierpretation of Scripture. 

Or that the study of Scripture may have a more im- 
portant place in a liberal education than hitherto? 
Or that the ' rational service' of interpreting Scripture 
may dry up the crude and dreamy vapours of religious 
excitement ? Or, that in preaching, new sources of 
spiritual health may flow from a more natural use of 
Scripture ? Or that the lessons of Scripture may have 
a nearer way to the hearts of the poor when dis- 
engaged from theological formulas ? Let us consider 
more at length some of these topics. 

I. No one casting his eye over the map of the 
Christian world can desire that the present lines of 
demarcation should always remain, any more than he 
will be inclined to regard the division of Christians to 
which he belongs himself, as in a pre-eminent or ex- 
elusive sense the Church of Christ, Those lines of 
demarcation seem to be political rather than religious ; 
they are differences of nations, or governments, or 
ranks of society, more than of creeds or forms of faith. 
The feeling which gave rise to them has, in a great 
measure, passed away ; no intelligent man seriously 
inclines to believe that salvation is to be found only 
in his own denomination. Examples of this * sturd}^ 
orthodoxy,' in our own generation, rather provoke a 
smile than arouse serious disapproval. Yet many 
experiments show that these differences cannot be 
made up by any formal concordat or scheme of union; 
the parties cannot be brought to terms, and if they 
could, would cease to take an interest in the question 
at issue. The friction is too great when persons are 
invited to meet for a discussion of differences ; such a 
process is like opening the doors and windows to put 
out a slumbering flame. But that is no reason for 
doubting that the divisions of the Christian world are 
beginning to pass away. The progress of politics, 
acquaintance with other countries, the growth of 
knowledge and of material greatness, changes of 
opinion in the Church of England, the present position 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 425 

of the Roman Communion — all these phenomena show 
that the ecclesiastical state of the world is not destined 
to be perpetual. Within the envious barriers which 
' divide human nature into very little pieces' (Plato, 
Bep. iii. 395), a common sentiment is springing up 
of religious truth ; the essentials of Christianity are 
contrasted with the details and definitions of it ; good 
men of all religions find that they are more nearly 
agreed than heretofore. Neither is it impossible that 
this common feeling may so prevail over tlie acci- 
dental circumstances of Christian communities, tliat 
their political or ecclesiastical separation may be little 
felt. The walls which no adversary has scaled may 
fall down of themselves. We may perhaps figure 
to ourselves the battle against error and moral evil 
taking the place of one of sects and parties. 

In this movement, which we should see more cleai-ly 
but for tlie divisions of the Christian world which 
]3artly conceal it, the critical interpretation of Scrip- 
ture will have a great influence. The Bible will be 
no longer appealed to as the witness of the opinions of 
particular sects, or of our own age; it will cease to be the 
battle-field of controversies. But as its true meaning 
is more clearly seen, its moral power will also be 
greater. If the outward and inward witness, instead 
of parting into two, as they once did, seem rather to 
blend and coincide in the Christian consciousness, that 
is not a source of weakness but of strength. The 
Book itself, which links together the beginning and 
end of the human race, will not have a less ines- 
timable value because the Spirit has taken the place of 
the letter. Its discrepancies of fiict, when we become 
familiar with them, will seem of little consequence in 
comparison with the truths which it unfolds. That 
these truths, instead of floating down the stream of 
tradition, or being lost in ritual observances, have 
been preserved for ever in a book, is one of the many 
blessings which the Jewish and Christian revelations 

426 On iJte Inieiyretation of Scripture. 

have conferred on the world — a blessing not the less 
real, because it is not necessary to attribute it to 
miraculous causes. 

Again, tlie Scriptures are a bond of union to the 
whole Christian world. No one denies their authority, 
and could all be brought to an intelligence of their 
true meaning, all might come to agree in matters of 
religion. That may seem to be a hope deferred, yet 
not altogether chimerical. If it is not held to be a 
thing impossible, that there should be agreement in 
the meaning of Plato or Sophocles, neither is it to be 
regarded as absurd, that there should be a like agree- 
ment in the interpretation of Scripture. The disap- 
pearance of artificial notions and systems will pave 
the way to such an agreement. The recognition of 
the fact, that many aspects and stages of religion are 
found in Scripture ; that different, or even opposite 
parties existed in the Apostolic Church ; that the first 
teachers of Christianity had a separate and individual 
mode of regarding the Gospel of Christ ; that any 
existing communion is necessarily much more unlike 
the brotherliood of love in the New Testament than 
we are willing to suppose — Protestants in some 
respects, as much so as Catholics — that rival sects in 
our own day — Calvinists and Arminians — tliose who 
maintain and those who deny the final restoration of 
man — may equally find texts which seem to favour 
their respective tenets (Mark ix. 44 — 48 ; Eomans 
xi. 32) — the recognition of these and similar facts will 
make us unwilling to impose any narrow rule of reli- 
gious opinion on the ever-varying conditions of the 
human mind and Christian society. 

II. Christian missions suggest another sphere in which 
a more enlightened use of Scripture might offer a great 
advantage to the teacher. The more he is himself pene- 
trated with the universal spirit of Scripture, the more 
he v/ill be able to resist the literal and servile habits 
of mind of Oriental nations. You cannot transfer 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 427 

Eng'lisli ways of belief, and almost the history of the 
Church of England itself, as the attempt is sometimes 
made — not to an uncivilized people, ready like chil- 
dren to receive new impressions, but to an ancient 
and decaying one, furrowed with the lines of thought, 
incapable of the principle of growth. But you may 
take the purer light or element of religion, of which 
Christianity is the expression, and make it shine on 
some principle in human nature which is the fallen 
image of it. You cannot give a people who have 
no history of their own, a sense of the importance 
of Christianity, as an historical fact ; but, perhaps, that 
very peculiarity of their character may make them 
more impressible by the truths or ideas of Chris- 
tianity. Neither is it easy to make them under- 
stand the growth of Eevelation in successive ages — 
that there are precepts of the Old Testament which 
are reversed in the New — or that Moses allowed many 
things for the hardness of men's hearts. Tliey are 
in one state of the world, and the missionary who 
teaches them is in another, and the Book tlirough 
which they are taught does not altogether coincide 
with either. Many difficulties thus arise which we 
are most likely to be successful in meeting when we 
look them in the face. To one inference they clearly 
point, which is this : that it is not the Book of Scrip- 
ture which we should seek to give them, to be reve- 
renced like the Vedas or the Koran, and consecrated in 
its words and letters, but the truth of the Book, 
tlie mind of Christ and His Apostles, in which all 
lesser details and differences should be lost and 
absorbed. We want to awaken in them the sense 
that God is their Father, and they His children ; — 
that is of more importance than any theory about the 
inspiraticn of Scripture. But to teach in this spirit, 
the missionary should himself be able to separate the 
accidents from the essence of religion ; he should be 
conscious that the power of the Gospel resides not 

4.28 On the InteiyretaHon of Scripture. 

in the particulars of theology, but in the Christicin 

III. It may be doubted whether Scripture has ever 
been sufficiently regarded as an element of liberal edu- 
cation. Few deem it worth while to spend in the study 
of it the same honest thought or pains which are 
bestowed on a classical author. Nor as at present 
studied, can it be said always to have an elevating 
effect. It is not a useful lesson for the young student 
to apply to Scripture, principles which he would hesi- 
tate to apply to other books ; to make formal recon- 
cilements of discrepancies which he would not think 
of reconciling in ordinary history ; to divide simple 
words into double meanings ; to adopt the fancies or 
conjectures of Fathers and Commentators as real 
knowledge. This laxity of knowledge is apt to infect 
the judgment when transferred to other subjects. It 
is not easy to say how much of the unsettlement of 
mind which prevails among intellectual young men is 
I attributable to these causes ; the mixture of truth and 
I falsehood in religious education, certainly tends to 
\ impair, at the age wlien it is most needed, the early 
, influence of a religious home. 

Yet Scripture studied in a more liberal spirit might 
supply a part of education which classical literature 
fails to provide. ' The best book for the heart might 
also- be made the best book for the intellect.' The 
noblest study of history and antiquity is contained in 
it ; a poetr}^ which is also the highest form of moral 
teaching ; there, too, are lives of heroes and prophets, 
and especially of One whom we do not name with 
them, because He is above them. This history, or 
poetry, or biography, is distinguished from all classical 
or secular writings by the contemplation of man as he 
appears in the sight of God. That is a sense of 
things into which we must grow as well as reason 
ourselves, without which human nature is but a trun- 
cated, half-educated sort of being. But this sense or 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 429 

consciousness of a Divine presence in tlie world, which 
seems to be natural to the beginnings of the human 
race, but fades away and requires to be renewed in its 
after history, is not to be gathered from Greek or 
Eoman hterature,but from the Old and New Testament. 
And before we can make the Old and New Testament 
a real part of education, we must read them not by 
the help of custom or tradition, in the spirit of apology 
or controversy, but in accordance with the ordinary 
laws of human knowledge. 

IV. Another use of Scripture is that in sermons, 
which seems to be among the tritest, and yet is far 
from being exhausted. If we could only be natural and 
speak of things as they truly are with a real interest 
and not merely a conventional one ! The words of 
Scripture come readily to hand, and the repetition of 
them requires no effort of thought in the writer or 
speaker. But, neither does it produce any effect on 
the hearer, which will always be in proportion to the 
degree of feeling or consciousness in ourselves. It 
may be said that originality is the gift of few ; no 
Church can expect to have, not a hundred, but ten such 
preachers as Eobertson or Newman. But, without 
originality, it seems possible to make use of Scripture 
in sermons in a much more living way than at present. 
Let the preacher make it a sort of religion, and proof 
of his reverence for Scripture, that he never uses its 
words without a distinct meaning ; let him avoid the 
form of argument from Scripture, and catch the feeling 
and spirit. Scripture is itself a kind of poetry, when not 
overlaid with rhetoric. The scene and country has a 
freshness which may always be renewed ; there is the 
interest of antiquity and the interest of home or com- 
mon life as well. The facts and characters of Scripture 
might receive a new reading by being described simply 
as they are. The truths of Scripture again would 
have greater reality if divested of the scholastic form 
in which theology has cast them. The universal and 

430 On the Interpretation of Scripture. 

spiritual aspects of Scripture might be more brought 
forward to the exckision of questions of the Jewish 
law, or controversies about the sacraments, or exagge- 
rated statements of doctrines which seem to be at 
variance witli morality. The life of Christ, regarded 
quite naturally as of one ' who was in all points 
tempted like as we are, yet without sin,' is also the life 
and centre of Christian teaching. There is no higher 
aim which the preacher can propose to himself than to 
awaken what may be termed the feeling of the pre- 
sence of God and the mind of Christ in Scripture ; 
not to collect evidences about dates and books, or to 
familiarize metaphysical distinctions ; but to make the 
heart and conscience of his hearers bear him witness 
that the lessons which are contained in Scripture — ■ 
lessons of justice and truth — lessons of mercy and 
peace^ — of the need of man and the goodness of God 
to him, are indeed not human but divine. 

V. It is time to make an end of this long disquisition 
— let the end be a few more words of application to the 
circumstances of a particular class in the present age. 
If any one who is about to become a clergyman feels, 
or thinks that he feels, that some of the preceding state- 
ments cast a shade of trouble or suspicion on his future 
walk of life, who, either from the influence of a stronger 
mind than his own, or from some natural tendency in 
himself, has been led to examine those great questions 
which lie on the threshold of the higher study of 
theology, and experiences a sort of shrinking or dizzi- 
ness at the prospect which is opening upon him ; let 
him lay to heart the following considerations : — First, 
that he may possibly not be the person who is called 
upon to pursue such inquiries. No man should busy 
himself with them who has not clearness of mind 
enough to see things as they are, and a faith strong 
enough forest in that degree of knowledge which God 
has really given ; or who is unable to separate the truth 
from his own religious wants and experiences. For 
the theologian as well as the philosopher has need of 

On the Interpretation of Scripture. 431 

* dry liglit,' ' iinmingled with any tincture of tlie 
affections,' the more so as his conclusions are oftener 
liable to be disordered by them. He who is of 
another temperament may find another work to do, 
which is in some respects a higher one. Unlike 
philosophy, the Gospel has an ideal life to offer, not to 
a few only, but to all. There is one word of caution, 
however, to be given to those who renounce inquiry ; 
it is, that they cannot retain the right to condemn 
inquirers. Their duty is to say with Nicodemus, 
' Doth the Gospel condemn any man before it hear 
him ?' although the answer may be only ' Art thou 
also of Galilee?' They have chosen the path of 
practical usefulness, and they should acknowledge 
that it is a narrow path. For any but a ' strong 
swimmer' will be insensibly drawn out of it by the 
tide of pubhc opinion or the current of party. 

Secondly, let him consider that the difficulty is not 
so great as imagination sometimes paints it. It is a 
difficulty which arises chiefly out of differences of 
education in different classes of society. It is a 
difficulty which tact, and prudence, and, much more, 
the power of a Christian life may hope to surmount. 
Much depends on the manner in which things are 
said ; on the evidence in the writer or preacher of a 
real good will to his opponents, and a desire for the 
moral improvement of men. There is an aspect of 
truth which may ahvays be put forward so as to find 
a way to the hearts of men. If there is danger and 
shrinking from one point of view, from another there 
is freedom and sense of relief. The wider contem- 
plation of the religious world may enable us to 
adjust our own place in it. The acknowledgment of 
churches as political and national institutions is the 
basis of a sound government of them. Criticism itself is 
not only negative ; if it creates some difficulties, it does 
away others. It may put us at variance with a party or 
section of Christians in our own neighbourhood. But 
on the other hand, it enables us to look at all men as 

432 On tlie Interpretation of Scripture. 

the J are in the sight of God, not as they appear to 
human eye, separated and often interdicted from each 
other by lines of rehgious demarcation ; it divides us 
from the parts to unite us to the whole. That is a great 
help to religious communion. It does away with the 
supposed opposition of reason and faith. It throws us 
back on the conviction that religion is a personal thing, 
in which certainty is to be slowly won and not assumed 
as the result of evidence or testimony. It places us, in 
some respects (though it be deemed a paradox to say 
so), more nearly in the position of the first Christians 
to whom the New Testament was not yet given, in 
whom tlie Grospel was a living word, not yet embodied 
in forms or supported by ancient institutious. 

Thirdly, the suspicion or difficulty which attends 
critical inquiries is no reason for doubting their value. 
The Scripture nowhere leads us to suppose that the 
circumstance of all men speaking well of us is any 
ground for supposing that we are acceptable in the 
sight of God. And there is no reason why the con- 
demnation of others should be witnessed to by our 
own conscience. Perhaps it may be true that, owing 
to the jealousy or fear of some, the reticence of others, 
the terrorism of a few, w^e may not always find 
it easy to regard these subjects with calmness and 
judgment. But, on the other hand, these accidental 
circumstances have nothing to do with the question 
at issue ; they cannot have the slightest influence on 
the meaning of words, or on the truth of facts. No 
one can carry out the principle that public opinion or 
church authority is the guide to tiuth, when he goes 
beyond the limits of liis own church or country. That 
is a consideration which may well make him pause 
before he accepts of such a guide in the journey to 
another world. All the arguments for repressing in- 
quiries into Scripture in Protestant countries hold 
equally in Italy and Spain for repressing inquiries 
into matters of lact or doctrine, and so for denying 
the Scriptures to the common people. 

Oti ilie Interpretation of Scripture. 433 

Lastly, let him be assured that there is some nobler 
idea of truth than is supplied by the opinion of man- 
kind in general, or the voice of parties in a church. 
Ever}' one, whether a student of theology or not, has 
need to make war against his prejudices no less than 
against his passions ; and, in the religious teacher, the 
first is even more necessary than the last. For, while 
the vices of mankind are in a great degree isolated, 
and are, at any rate, reprobated by pul)lic opinion, 
tlieir prejudices have a sort of communion or kindred 
with the world without. They are a collective evil, 
and have their being in the interest, classes, states of 
society, and other influences amid which we live. He 
who takes the prevciiling opinions of Christians and 
decks them out in their gayest colours — who reflects 
the better mind of the world to itself — is likely to be 
its favourite teacher. In that ministry of the Gospel, 
even when assuming forms repulsive to j)ersons of 
education, no doubt the good is far greater than the 
error or harm. But there is also a deeper work 
which is not dependent on the opinions of men 
in which many elements combine, some alien to 
religion, or accidentally at variance with it. That 
work can hardly expect to win much popular 
favour, so far as it runs counter to the feelings of re- 
ligious parties. But he who bears a part in it may 
feel a confidence, which no popular caresses or religious 
sympathy could inspire, that he has by a Divine help 
been enabled to plant his foot somewhere beyond the 
waves of time. He may depart hence before the 
natural term, worn out with intellectual toil ; regarded 
with suspicion by many of his contemporaries ; yet 
not without a sure hope that the love of truth, which 
men of saintly lives often seem to slight, is, neverthe- 
less, accepted before God. 

r F 


Since the Essay on Bunsen's Biblical Researches was in type, two 
more parts of the ' Bible for the People have reached England. 
One includes a translation of Isaiah, but does not separate the 
distinguishable portions in the manner of Ewald, or with the free- 
dom which the translator's criticisms would justify. The other 
part comprehends numerous dissertations on the Pentateuch, en- 
tering largely on questions of its origin, materials, and interpreta- 
tion. There seems not an entire consistency of detail in these 
dissertations, and in the views deducible from the author's Egypt, 
but the same spirit and breadth of treatment pervade botli. The 
analysis of the Levitical laws, by which the Mosaic germs are dis- 
tinguished from subsequent accretions, is of the highest interest. 
The Ten Plagues of Egypt are somewhat rationalistically handled, 
as having a true historical basis, but as explicable by natural 
phenomena indigenous to Egypt in all ages. The author's tone, 
Tipon the technical definition of miracles, as distinct from great 
marvels and wonders, has acqiiired a firmer freedom, and would 
be represented by some among ourselves as ' painfully scepticaL' 
But even those who hesitate to follow the author in his details 
must be struck by the brilliant suggestiveness of his researches, 
which tend more and moi'e, in proportion as they are developed, to 
justify the presentiment of their creating a new epoch in the 
science of Biblical criticism. 

R. W. 




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•^-* WRITrNGS : Comprising his Contributions to KnighVs Quarterly Magazine, Articles 
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From, the Atlas Neiv&paper, December 15, 1860. 

rpHE world-wide celebrity 
J_ which the writings of Sydney 
Smith have obtained renders it super- 
fluous to say much by way of introduc- 
tion to a Tolurae composed of witty passages 
selected from liis "works. AVherever the 1 nfjlish 
language is spoken or our literatuie is cultivated, 
there it may be safely affirmed his writiuL-s are and his merits appri ciated In whatever 
form we meet with the polished productions of liis 
pen, the}' are always acceptable ; a never-f iling wel- 
come is sure to greet them. Few who are acquainted 
with his broad and benevolent wisdom, his .-park- 
ling wit, his tolerant spirit, h;s enlightened and un- 
artected piety ami the large catholic lieart with whh h 
he laboured successfully in the interets of huma- 
nity, but desire to possess his writings, that they 
may dip into them at any moment and t.iste the 
flavour of his genius. It must be granted that every 
cndeavnu'- has been made to meet thi* demand. 
V.ditions of his works are now before the public, to 
suit ail classes and all purcl'.ascrs, so that no one 
lued be now withoiit a copy of the writings of 
Sychicy Smith. Kut this volume of his •> it and 
ji'ii'lom calls for especial commendation. If anv- 
thing can tend still more to pipuhnize the remains 
of this eminent writer and excellent man. this 
volume Is calculated to produce that desirable 
result. His wit cannot be too widely circulated, 
his wisdom has bee me the inlierilance of all. 
Notwithstaiiding the great popularity of Sydney 
Smith's writings, his fame witi, future gcner.i- 
lions of read rs must rest upon the wit and wisdom 
which stand out pr. minently from the body of 
his pages, quite ii'resp'ctive of the subject in hand. 
Writing in the bi ginning of the century, on the 
great pDl.tical and questions of the day, 
it is obvi lus that many of his topics have lost 
their interest for the general readier. It seemed 
probable, therefore, that many things worthy to be 
remembered would be forgotten with the subject 
that gave rise to them. To avoid this his editor has 
ad'jpted the happy expedient of separating the most 
bri'liunt :ind instructive pa-sages from his writings, 
and presenting them in the form of maxims or 
apli'iri-ms: so ihat we have here, as it were the 
e-sence of Sydney Smith's mind. All that can 
be gleaned fi-om what he wrote, all that can be 

remembered and collected from 
his conversation, of those flashes of 
merriment tliat were wont to set the 
table in a roar, are brought together in a 
compendious lorm for the benefit of his ad'- 
mirers. Iietached thus from their original position, 
as the editor remarks, the gems are displayed 
without their setting, the pearls are unstrung; but 
being gems and pearls of price, they sliine with a 
lustre all their own. If there could b.' any objection 
to this volume, it would be that it is likely to throw 
the settings — t > keep up the metaph u-— a lit'le into 
the shade ; a result which we should very much re- 
gret, since it is only in the complete work that the 
tine scholarly elegance and the exquisite st>le of the 
author can be fully appreciated. But to all true 
lovi rs of literature this effect can on y be tran-itory. 
However much it may encourage their iU'lokMce at 
the time, it will be sure in the end to lead them to 
desire a more perfect acquaintance with his works. 
Meaiiwhile it must be a. lowed by those who object 
to selections or extracts from favour! e authors, that 
this volume is calcu.ated ti increase the number of 
Sydney Smith's readers. It is certain to bring his 
pithy sayings and shrewd thoughts within the reach 
of many who have not the iei>ure, perhaps not the 
inclination to seek for them in the body o his works ; 
and there can be no doubt that to all, reduced to the 
form in which this volume piesents them, tl.ey will 
possess the quality of more permanently fixing them- 
selves on the mind of the reader than in their ori- 
ginal position. The great charm of this volume is the 
variety of thought and expression it contains. Sydney 
^raith by no means a one-sidi-d man, nor was he 
a man of one idea. There are few t' pics of piiblic 
iuteiest upon w hich he has not had his say ; and 
mostly hi-5 sayings apply now with all the force they 

did at the time he penned them We mii'lit go on 

quoting without end from this charming volume, to 
illustrate the variety and liberality of thought it 
cimtains ; but our space is circumscribed, and we 
think we have given sutHcient to indicate its value. 
Every one possessing it is -'ure to acquiie a veryfiir 
avera_'e knowledge of the life and writings of the 
author, for this selection is judiciousl^ interspersed 
witli many autobiographieiil sketches; and we shall 
be very much surprised if the volume do not becuuie 
exceedingly popular. 

SELECTIONS from the Rev. SYDNEY SMITH'S WRITINGS. 2 vols. 16mo. 53. 


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§5" Tlie Volumes are sold separately, as follows : — 

Vol. I. 

By the Rev. T. H. Hobne, B.D 15s. 

Vol. II. 

and to BIBLICAL INTERPRETATIOX ; with an Analysis of the Books of the Old Testa- 
ment and Apocrypha. Revised and edited by the Rev. John Atee, M.A 253. 

" Y^E gladly recognise a new and most 

abiy executed edition of the Eer. T. H. 
Home's Introduction to the Old Testament. No one, 
perhaps,, eould be better adapted for such a revision the Rev. John Ayre, whose publication of the 
±.urly Reformers in the Parker Society places him 

in the foremost ranks of sound theologians. 

He has, in the present work, done justice to his vene- 
rable predecessor as well as to his own fame, and the 
book will be hailed by all competent judges as a very 
necessary and opportune addition to literature. " 

John Bull. 

Vol. II. 
-»- on Sacred liiterpretation ; and a brief Introduction to the Old Testament Books and the 
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Vol. III. 

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Laud. 2. Political Antiquities of the Jews. 3. Sacred Antiquities, and i. Domestic Antiquities, of the 
Jews, and of other A'ations incidentally mentioned in the Scriptures. Appendix : I. Tables of 
Weights, Measures, and Money mentioned in the Bible; II. Chronological Table of the principal 
Events recorded in the Scriptures; III. Concise Dictionary of the Symbolical Language of the Scrip- 
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" 'T'HERE is a vehemence and 
-I- shrillness of tone in most of the 
books on the conditiou-of-women ques- 
tion which make the present work, with 
its interrogative title, pleasant in its 
quiet good sense and good taste. It is 
addressed to women who have no need 
to work for their living, and who are at 
leisure, with no pressure of domestic 

duties to take up their time It is 

written with good feeling, and also with 
that crowning virtue — the only virtue 
that brings its own reward — good sense. 

We need not enter deeply into the 

question, — we refer our readers to the 
work itself, which for its genial, earnest, 
sensible spirit, is well worthy the atten- 
tion of all who, like children on a 
rainy day, are wanting something to do. 
They will find suggestions innumerable, 
which all who desire to use their gifts of 

education, money, or leisure to advantage may turn 
to use. They will open tlieir eyes to see for them- 
selves the ways in which tliey individually may 
work and help. The value of a book lies in what it 
suggests to us,- in what it enables us to see and 
feci, which we did not see or feel before,— in the 
spirit it awakens within us,— and not in the things 
actually said. Such worth, such suggestions, arc in 
My Life^ and wlmt shall 1 dotcitk it ?"— Athen jeum. 

THOUGH some such title as 
the one which we have prefixed 
to this article" [An Essay on Charity as 
an Employment for Ladies] "would have 
been more appropriate, it could hardly 

have beei! prefixed to a better book 

in the present case the book is so tho- 
roughly good that any blemish in it" [an 

affected title] " is doubly vexatious The general 

object of the book is to show how educated gentle- 
women who have the leisure and the will may em- 
ploy their own advantages in the improvement of 
uneducated ungentle women, and of their social 
condition, and to sliow how they may best prepare 
for that work. It begins by remarking — what no 
doubt is true that many unmarried w omen in easy 
circumstances have, in the present state of society, 
no important duties of their own to attend to. Slie 

carefully limits the class to which 
she refers, and confines her observations 
to grown-up women who are in easy cir- 
cumstances and have no domestic duties. 
Such persons, she says, are greatly in 
want of employment, and are eminently 
fitted in various ways to undertake cha- 
ritable labours ; and she proceeds, with 
skill and good sense, to give practical 
advice as to the manner in which this 
may be done. Tliis employment, she 
says, will in itfself furnish the best possi- 
ble training for the duties of a wife and 
a mother, if the persons who adopt it 
should marry ; whilst, if they do not, it 
will supply them with a useful occupa- 
tion for their lives The substance 

of the essay deserves almost unmixed 
praise. Most men would probably 
agree in the opinion that no human 
being is entitled to so much reverence, or 

approaches so nearly to our highest conceptions of 
goodness, as a really good woman ; and this little 
book is pervaded throughout by the kindness, the 
considerate tenderness, and the keen observation 
and quiet good sense which go to make up that cha- 
racter. Tlie temper in which it is written is 
thoroughly ladylike. There is not a word in it 
which could oifend the most scrupulous sense of 
self-respect ; and fi-om first to last it is marked by a 
constant suppression of personal inclinations irrele- 
vant to the matter in hand. The authoress, for 
example, is obviously not only fond of poetry, but 
deeply moved by it, yet she hardly ever quotes it: 
and though little phrases here and there seem to 
indicate he existence of strong religious emotions, 
she never dwells upon them She is writing, as she 
says, on an out^vard or practical subject, and ac- 
cordingly CO' fines herself strictly to the practical 
side of religion. It is quite curious to .see how her 
good sense keeps her out of all the pitfalls into 
which an equally amiable but less thoughtful 
woman would have been almost sure to fall in 

writing on such a subject The intel- 
lectual merits of the book ai-e vei-y 
striking. They consist in strong good 
sense, the generosity which usually ac- 
companies that quality, and a singularly 
keen power of observation. Almost 
every page affords exam[)les of this." 
Sati'BDay Review. 

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sentence actuated and pervaded by the tenderestsym- 
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the danger and the remedy. To multiply 

extracts would be a pleasant task ; but one must suf- 
fice, which is given in the hope that the whole of this 
small volume may soon become familiar to a large 

circle of readers In addition to their moral and 

religious weigh;, the works of this lady are a model 
of correct writing and clear expression. There is 
never any doubt as to hir meaning, which flows 
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Annotated by W. WALKER WILKINS. 

Epigraph. — " More solid things do not show the com- 
plexion of the times so well as Ballads and Libels." 

Selden's Table Talk. 

THIS collection comprises 124 
ballads, dated from a.d. 16-11 
to A.D. 1757, chronologically ar- 
ranged under the reigns of Charles 
I., Commonwealth, Charles II., James 
II., William III., Anne, George I. and 
George II., gleaned from rare single sheets 
and broadsides (many believed to be 
unique), old MSS. and contemporary jour- 
Eah, with some from scarce volumes 
printed towards the close of the 17th 
and early in the 18th centuries, and 
a few for completeness from more mo- 
dern books. ' When the King enjoys his 
own again,' ' A Mad World, my Masters,' 
* The Protecting Brewer, ' * Clarendon's 
House Warming,' ' Lilli Burlero,' ' Rome 
in an Uproar,' 'The Old Grey Mare 
(Queen Anne),' 'The Pretender's Flight 
and Lamentation,' ' Admiral Hosier's 
Ghost,' and many other once popular 
pieces of poetical humour reflecting the 
sentiments of our ancestors on the poli- 
tical men and events of their day, are 
here correctly printed ; with particulars 
respecting the writers whenever ascer- 
tainable, the names originally omitted or 
initialed supplied in full, and brief expla- 
natory notices of the events and person- 
ages alluded to added for the informa- 
tion of the general reader. Each ballad 
is given verbatim ; care having been first 
taken to reproduce such only as are 
characteristic and illustrative of the pe- 
riod to which they relate, and to include 
none of an indelicate nature either in 
subject or language. 

THIS is a book that will be of 
great use to the general student 
of English History — one who reads to 
know the history of the English people 
during the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. It is a book that was wanted. 
Since the days of Fletcher of Saltoun, 
who made the oft- quoted remark about 
the importnnce of a nation's songs, as 
compared with their laws, all writers on 
history and the dojnestic lives of nations 
have given some attention to the expres- 
sion of the vox populi in street songs 
and occasional ballads. Macaulay's His- 
tory is warmed and enlightened by the 
fire and light of ballads, broadsheets, and 
popular satires and invectives. After 
the pleasant labour of examining these 
two carefully-edited volumes we have to 
report that the work is very well done. 
The ballads and songs are grouped 

together chronologically. The first is directed 
against Laud, the Organ's Echo, and is dated by 
Mr. Wllkins, 1641, and must certainly have been 
popular in that year. The last ballad is a satirical 
medley about the Secret Ezpcdiimn of 1757 mulcr 
Admiral Ha)vke and Generals Murdnunl and 
Comcay. Within these two dates, we have the 
great piiblic events which have enabled the English 
nation to breathe at last as freely as they do now. 
Every ballad printed here is a sign of the times, and 
a warning to the ruling powers that hritons neccr 
will be slaves. There is much rough talent and wit 
displayed in each era, but, we think, indignation 
makes better verses in the time of the civil wars 
between Charles I. and the Parliament, than she has 
done since, until we come to the times of Charles 
Hanbury "Williams. Each ballad is preceded by a 
note explaining all that is knoAvn about it, and occa- 
sionally some critical remarks. These annotations 
add very m\ich to the value of the work. Mr. 
Wilkins has very properly printed the names in full 
which were originally <mly indicated by a blank or 
by initial letters. These volumes are so good that 
we hope to see the third volume (half-pioraised) 
containing similar popular poetry, since the reign of 
George II." Spectatob. 

London : LONGMAN, GEEEN, and CO., Paternoster Row, 





39 Patebnostee Kow, London. 


.griculture and Rural 

Bayldon on Valuing Rents, &c. - 4 

Cecil's Stud Farm - - - G 
Hoskyns'9 Talpa --■'•" 

Loudon's Agriculture - . - 13 

Morion on Landed Property - IB 

" (J. C.) Dairy Husbandry - 16 

rts, Manufactures, and 

Bourne's Catechism of the Steam 

Engine - - - - * 

Brande's Dictionary ofScience.&c. 4 

" Organic Chemistry- - 4 

Cresy's Civil Engineering " " S 

Fairbairn's Informa. for Engineers / 

" on Mills and Millwork 7 

Falliener's Dafdalus . - - 7 

" Museum of Classical 

Antiquities - - - - i 

Goodeve's Elements of Mechanism 8 

Gwilt's Encyclo. of Architecture - 8 

Harford's Plates Irom M. Angelo - 8 

Humphreys's Parables Illuminated 10 

Jameson's Saints and Martyrs - 11 

" Monastic Orders - - U 

" Legends of Madonna - 11 

" Commonplace-Book - 11 

Konig's Pictorial Life of Luther - 8 

Loudon's Rural Architecture - 13 

Lore's Art of Dyeing - - - 13 

Lowndes's Engineer's Handbook- 13 

MacDougall's Campaigns of Han- 

nibal - - U 

" Theory of "War - 14 

Moseley'sEngineering - - - 16 

Piesse's Art of Perfumery - - 18 

" Laboratory of Chymical 

Wonders - - - - - 18 

Richardson's Art of Horsemanship 18 

Scoffern on Projectiles, &c. - - 19 

Steam-Engine,by the Artisan Club 4 

Ure's Dictionaryof Arts,&c. - 23 


Arago's Lives of Scientific Men - :i 
Baillie's Memoir of Bate - - 3 
Brialmont's Wellington - • 4 
Bunsen's Hippolytus - - - 6 
Bunting's (Dr.) Life - - - 5 
Crosse's (Andrew) Memorials - 6 
Green's Princesses of England - 8 
Harford's Life of Michael Angelo - 8 
Lardner's Cabinet CydopEedia - 12 
Marshman's Life of Carey, Marsh- 
man, and Ward - 15 
Life of Haveloek - 13 
Maunder's Biographical Treasury- 15 
Mountain's (Col.) Memoirs - - 16 
Palleske's Life of Schiller - - 17 
Parry's (Admiral) Memoirs - - 17 
Peel's Sketch of sir R. Peel's Life 

and Character - - - - 17 

Piozzi's Autobiography and Letters 18 

Russell's Memoirs of Moore - 16 

" (Dr.) Mezzofanti - - 19 

SchimmelPenninck's (Mrs.) Life - 19 

Shee's Life of Sir M. A. Shee - 2(1 

Southey's Life of Wesley - - 21 

Stephen's Ecclesiastical Biography 21 

Strickland's Queens of England - 21 

Sydney Smith's Memoirs - - 21 
'VVater'ton'6Autobiography& Essays 23 

looks of General Utility. 

Acton's Cookery Book - . - 3 
Black's Treatise on Brewing- - 4 
Cabinet Gazetteer - - - - 5 
" Lawyer - - - - 5 
Cust's Invalid's Own Book - - g 
Hensman's Handbook of the Con- 
stitution 9 

Hints on Etiquette - - - 9 

Hudson's Executor's Guide - - 10 

" on Making Wills - - 10 

Hunter's Art of Writing Precis - 11 
Kesteven's Domestic Medicine - 11 
Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia - 13 
Loudon's Lady's Country Compa- 
nion ------ 13 

Maunder's Treasury of Knowledge 15 

" Biographical Treasury 15 

" Geographical Treasury 15 

" Scientific Treasury - 15 

" Treasury of History - 15 

** Natural History - - 15 

Piesse's Art of Perfumery - - 18 

Pitt's How to Brew Good Beer - 18 

Pocket and the Stud - - - K 

Pycroft's English Reading - - 18 

Richardson's Art of Horsemanship 18 

Riddle's Latin Dictionaries - - 19 

Roget's English Thesaurus - - 19 

Rowton'3 Debater - - - - 19 

Short Whist 20 

Simpson's Handbook of Dining - 20 
Sleigh's Personal Wrongs and 

Legal Remedies - - . - 20 

Thomson's Interest Tables - - 22 
Walford's Handybook of the Civil 

Service - _ - - - 23 

Webster's Domestic Economy - 23 

West on Nursing Sick Children - 24 

Willich's Popular Tables - - 24 

Wilmot's Blackstone - - - 24 

Botany and Gardening. 

Hassall's British Freshwater Alga 9 

Hooker's British Flora - - - 10 

" Guide to Kew Gardens - 10 

Lindley's Introduction to Botany 12 

'* Synopsis of the British 

Flora - - - - 12 

** Theory of Horticulture - 13 

Loudon's Hortus Britannicus - 13 

" Amateur Gardener - 13 

" Trees and Shruba - - 13 

" Gardening - - - 13 

" Plants - - - - 13 

Pereira's Materia Medica - - 17 

Rivers's Rose-Amateur's Guide - 19 

Wilson's British Mosses - - 24 


Brewer's Historical Atlas - - 4 

Bunsen's Ancient Egypt - - 5 

Haydn's Beatson's Index - - 9 

Jaquemet's Abridged Chronology - U 

Nicolas's Chronology of History - 12 

Commerce and Mercantile 
Affairs • 

Gilbart's Logic of Banking - - S 

Lorimer's Young Master Mariner - 13 
Mcculloch's Commerce tS: Navigation 14 

Thomson's Interest Tables - - 22 

Tooke's History of Prices - - 23 

Criticism, History, and 

Brewer's Historical Atlas - - - 4 

Bunsen's Ancient Egypt - - 5 

" Hippolytus - - - 5 

Burke's Vicissitudes of Faniilies - 5 

Chapman's Gustavus Adolphus - 6 
dough's Greek History from 

Plutarcli ----- 6 
Conybeare and Howson's St. Paul 6 
Connolly's Sappers and Miners - 6 
Crowe's History of France - - 6 
Frazer's Letters during the Penin- 
sular and Waterloo Campaigns 7 
Gurney's Historical Sketches - 8 
Hayward's Essays - - - - 9 
Hensman's Handbook of the Con- 
stitution ----- 9 
Herschel's Essays and Addresses - 9 
Jeffrey's (Lord) Essays - - 11 
Kemble's Anglo-Saxons - - 11 

Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopsedia - 12 
Latham's Works on the English 

Language ----- 11 

Lowe's Campaigns in Central India 13 

Macaulay's Crit. and Hist. Essays 14 

" History of England - 13 

Miscellaneous Writings 13 

. " Speeches - - - 14 

Mackintosh's Miscellaneous Works 14 

" History of England - 14 

M'Culloch'sGeograpnicalDictionary 14 

Maunder's Treasury of History - IS 

Merivale's History of Rome - - 15 

" Roman Republic - - 16 

Moore's (Thomas) Memoirs, &c. - 16 

Mure's Greek Literature - - 16 

Palleske's Life & Works of Schiller 17 

Piozzi's Autobiography & Letters 18 

Porter's Knights of Malta - - 18 

Raikes's Journal - - - - 18 

Rich's R. and G. Antiquities- - 18 

Riddle's Latin Lexicon - 19 

Rogers's Essays from Edinb. ReTiewl9 

" (Sam.) Recollections - 19 

Roget's English Thesaurus - - 19 

SchimmelPenninck's Memoirs of 

Port Royal - - 19 

•* Principles of 

Beauty, &c. - - - 19 

Schmitz's History of Greece - 19 ) 

Southey's Doctor - - - - 21 

Stephen's Ecclesiastical Biographv 21 

" Lectures on French History 21 

Sydney Smith's Works - - - 21 

** Lectures - - 21 

" Memoirs - - 21 

Thirlwall's Historyof Greece - 21 

Turner's Anglo-Saxons - - 23 

White & Riddle's Latin Dictionary 24 

Whiteside's Italy . - - - 24 

Wilkins's Political Ballads ^ - 24 

Wilmot's Brougham's Law Reforms 24 

Geography and Atlases. 

Brewer's Historical Atlas - _ 4 

Butler's Geography and Atlases - 5 

Cabinet Gazetteer - - - . 5 

Johnston's General Gazetteer - 11 
M'Culloch's GeographicalDictionary 14 

Maunder's Treasury of Geography 15 

Murray's Encyclo. of Geography - 17 

Sharp's British Gazetteer - - 20 

Juvenile BookSi 

Amy Herbert - - - - . oq 

Cleve Hall 20 

Earl's Daughter (The) - - - 20 

Experience of Life - - - 20 

Gertrude - - - - 20 

Hewitt's Boy's Country Book - 10 

" (Mary) Children's Year - 10 


Katharine Ashton - - - - 20 

Laneton Parsonage - ■- - 20 

Margaret Percival - - - - 20 
Piesse's Chymical, Natural, and 

Ph ysical Magic - 18 
" Laboratory of Chymical 

Wonders - - - 18 

Pycroft's Collegian's Guide - - 18 

Medicine, Surgery, Sec. 

Brodie's Psychological Inquiries - 4 

Bull's Hints to Mothers- - - 4 

" Management of Children - 4 

Copland's Dictionary of Medicine - f! 

Cust's Invalid's Own Book - - 6 

Holland's Mental Physiology - 9 
" Medical Notes and Reflect. 9 

Kesteven's Domestic Medicine - 1 1 

Pereira's Materia Medica - - 17 

Spencer's Psychology - - - 21 
Todd's Cyclopaedia of Anatomy 

and Physiology - - - - 23 

West on Children's Diseases - - 24 

" Nursing Sick Children - 24 


Miscellaneous and General 

Bacon's fLorrt) Works - - - 3 

Bo^ise's Pliilosiiphv of Nature - 4 

Bray on Educ ition of the Feelings 4 

Defence of Eriipseo/fot(A - - 7 

Eclipse of Faith - - - l 

Greyson's ><elect Correspondence - 8 

Gur'ney's Evenina Recreations - 8 
Hassali's*ilulterations Delected,&c. 8 

Havdn'9 Booli of Dignities - - 9 

Holland's Mental Physiology - 9 

Hooker's Ke%v Guide - - - 10 

Howard's Gymnastic Exercises - 10 

Hewitt's Rural Life of England - 10 
" Visitsto RemarkahlePlaceslO 

Jameson's CommnnplaceBook - H 

Mar.aulav's *^peeches - - - 14 

Mackintosh's Miscellaneous Woaks 14 

Martmeau's Miscellanies - - 14 

Newman on University Education 17 
" OfHce and Work of 

Universities - - - - 17 

Newman's Lectures and Essays - 17 

Pycrnlfs F.nzlish Reading - - 18 

Rich's Dictionary of Antiquities - 18 

Riddle's L;itin Dictionaries - - 19 

Rnwion's Dehater -^ - - 19 

Sir Roser DeCoverlej - - - 21) 

Southey's Doctor, &c. - - - 21 

Spencer's Essays - - - - 21 

Stow's Trainins System - - 21 

Thomson's Laws of Thousht - 23 
Trevelvan on the Native Languages 

of India 23 

White & Riddle's Latin Dictionary 21 

Wdlich's Popular Tables - - 24 

W'it and Wisdom of Sydney Smith 21 

Yonge's Enirlish-Greek Lclicon - 24 

" Latin Gradus - - 24 

Zumpt'8 Latin Grammar - - 24 

Natural History in general. 

Agassi?, on Classification - - 3 

Callows Popular Conchology - 6 

Ephemera's Book ofthe Salmon - 7 

Garralt's Marvels of Instinct - 7 
Gosse's Natural History of Jamaica 8 
Hart-vig's Sea and its Living Wonders 8 

Kirby and Spence's F.ntomology - 11 

Lee's Elements of Natural History 12 

Maunder's Natural History - - 15 

Quitref.ige's Natuialist's Rambles 18 

Stonehenie on the Dog - 21 
Turton's Shells ofthe British Islands 2^ 

Waierton's Essayson Natural Hist. 23 

Youalt's Work on the Dog - - 24 

" '' Horse - 24 

l-Volume EncyclopBedias 
and Dictionaries. 

Blaine's Rural Sports - - . 4 

Brande's Science, Literature, and Art 4 

Coplao'l's Dictionary of Medicine - 6 

Cresy'6 Civil Engineering - - S 

Gwilt's Architecture - - - 8 

Johnston's Geographical Dictionary 11 

Loudon's Agriculture - - - 13 

" Rural Architecture - 13 

" Gardening ... 13 

■' Plants - - - - 13 

" Trees and Shrubs - - ]3 

M'Culloch's Geographical Dictionary 14 

** DictionaryofCommerce 14 

Murray's Encyclo. of Geography - 17 

Sharp's British Gazetteer - - 20 

Ure's Dictionary of Arts, &c.- - 23 

Webster's Domestic Economy - 23 

Religious & Moral W^orks. 

Afternoon of Life - - - - 3 

Amy Herbert - - - - 20 

Bloomfield'sGreekTestament - 4 

" Supplement to ditto 4 

Bray on Education of the Fetlings 4 

Bunvan's Pilgrim's Progress - 6 

Calvert's Wife's Manual - - 5 

Catz and Farlie's Moral Emblems K 

Cleve Hall 20 

Conyheare and Howson's St. Paul 6 
Cotton's Instructions in Christianity 6 
Dale's Domestic Liturgy - -'7 

Deienceof E'/i/iseo/Fflirt . - 7 

Earl's Daughter (The) - - - 20 

Eclipse of I- aith - ... 7 

Experience (The) of Life - - 20 

Gertrude - . - - 20 

Hoare on the Veracity of Oenesis - 9 

Home's Introduction to Scriptures 9 

" Abridgment of ditto - In 

Humpbrrys's I'arabtes Illuminated 10 

Ivors ; or, the Two Cousins - ^20 
Jameson's Sacred Legends - - 10 
" Monastic Legends - - 10 
" Legends of the Madonna 10 
" Lectures on Female Em- 
ployment ----- 10 
Jeremy Taylor's Works - - - 11 
Katharine ishton - - - 20 
Konig's Pictorial Lift of Luther - 8 
Laneton Parsonage - - - 20 
LyraGermanica - - - - 5 
Maguire's Rome - - - - 14 
Margaret Percival - - - - 20 
Marshman's Serampore Mission - 15 
Martineau's Christian .Life - - 14 
" Hymns - - - 14 
" Studies of Christianity 14 
Merivale's Christian Records - 16 
Moore on the Use of the Body - 16 
" " Soul and Body - 16 
" 's Man and hie Motives - 16 
Morning Clouds - - - - 16 
Moseley's Astro-Theology - - 16 
Neale's Closing Scene - - - 17 
Powell's Christianity without Ju- 
daism - - - - 18 
" Order of Natui-e - - 18 
Readings for Lent - - - 20 
" Confirmation - - 20 
Riddle's Household Prayers - 19 
Rohmson's Lexicon to the Greek 

Testament 19 

SchimmelPenninck's Musings - 19 

.'Self Eiamiuation for Confirmation 20 

Sewell'kHistnryofthe Early Church 20 

" Passing thoughU on Religion 20 

Smith's (Sydney) Moral Philosophy 21 

" (G.') Wesleyan Methodism 20 

" (J.) St. Paul's Shipwreck - 20 

Soulhey's Life of Wesley - - 21 

Spitta'B Lyra Domestica - - 21 

Stephen's Ecclesiustical Biography 21 

Theologia Germanica - - - 5 

Thumb Bible (The) - - 2f 

Ursula ------ 20 

Poetry and the Drama. 

Aikin's (Dr.) British Poets - - 3 

Arnold's Merope _ - - - - 3 

'* Poems - - - - 3 

Goldsmith's Poems, illustrated - 8 

L. E. L.'s Poetical Works - 12 

liinwood's AntbologiaOxoniensis- 13 

Lyra Germanica - - - - 5 

Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome 14 

Mac Donald's Within and Without 14 

** Poems - - - 14 

Montgomery's Poetical Works - 16 

Moore's Poetical Works - - 16 

'■■ Selections (illustrated) - 16 

" Lalla Rookh . - - 16 

" Irish Melodies - - - 16 

•• National Melodies • - 16 

" Sacred Songs (MJt«A3fmic) 16 

" Songs and Ballads - - 16 

Power's Virginia's Hand - - 18 

Shakspeare, by Bowdler - - 20 

Snuthey's Poetical Works - - 21 

Spitta's Lyra Domestica - 21 

Thomson's Seasons, illustrated - 22 

W'arburton'ft Hunting Songs - 23 

Wilkins's Political BaUads - - 2t 

The Sciences in general 
and Mathematics. 

Arago's Meteorological Essays - 3 

'* Popular Astronomy - - 3 

Boase's Philosophy of Nature - 4 
Bourne's Catechiiim of Steam- 

Engine ----- 4 

Boyd's Naval Cadet's Manual - 4 

Brande's Dictionary of Science, &c. 4 

" Lectures on Organic Chemistry 4 

Coniogton's Chemical Analysis - 6 

Cresy's Civil Engineering - - 6 

De la Rive's Electricity - - 7 

Grove's Correla. of Physical Forces 8 

Herschel's Outlines ol Astronomy 9 

Holland's Mental Physiology - 9 

Humboldt's Aspects of Nature - 10 

*' Cosmos - - - 10 

Hunt on Light - - - - 11 

Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopsedia - 12 

Marcel's (Mrs.) Conversations - 14 

Morell's Elements of Psychology - 16 

Moseley's Astro Theology - - 16 

" Engineering * Architecture 16 

Ogilvie's Master- Builder's Plan - 17 

Ovven's Lectureson Comp. Anatomy 17 

Pereira on Polarised Light - - 17 

Peschel's Elements of Physics - 17 

Phillips's Mineralogy - - - 17 

" Guide to Geology - - 17 
Piesse's Laboratory of Chynoical 

Wonders . . - - . 18 

Powell's Unity of Worlds 
Ramsay's Glaciers of North Wales 

and Switzerland - - - , 
Smee's Electro-Metallurgy - 
Steam-Engine ^The) 
Tate on Strength of Materials 
Twisden's Examples in Mechanisr 
Webb's Celestial Objects for Com - 

mon Telescopes 

Rural Sports. 

Baker's Rifle and Hound in Ceylon 
Blaine's Dictionary of Sports 
Cecil's SUble Practice - 

" Stud Farm - - - . 
Dead Shot (The) - . - . 
Ephemera on Angling - - - 
'* 's Book of the Salmon - 
Freeman and Salvin's Falconry - 
Hamilton's Reminiscences of an 

Old Sportsman - 
Hawker's Young Sportsman - 
Howard's .athletic Exercises - 
The Hunting-Field 
Idle's Hints on Shooting 
Pocket and the Stud 
Practical Horsemanship 
iPvcroft's Cricket Field - 
Richardson's Horsemanship - 
Ronalds' Flv-Fisher's Entomology 
Salmon Fishing in Canada - 
Stable Talk and Table Talk - 
Stonehenge on the Dog - - - 

'* on the Greyhound 

The Stud, for Practical Purposes - 

Veterinary Medicine, 8t>' 

Cecil's Stable Practice 

'* Stud Farm - _ - 

Hunting. Field (The) - 
Miles's Horse-Shoeing - - - 

" on the Horse's Foot 
Pocket and tile Stud - - - 
Practical Horsemanship 
Richardson's Horsemanship 
Stable Talk and Table Talk - 
Stonehenge on the Dog - 
Stud (The) . - . . 

Y'ouatt's Work on the Dog - 
„ ., Horse 

Voyages and Travels. 

Baker's Wanderings in Ceylon 
Earth's African Travels 
Burton's East Africa 

" Lake Regions of Central 

Africa - - - - 

<' Medina and Mecca - 

Domenech's Texas - - . 

'* Deserts of North America 

Forester's Sardinia and Corsica - 

Hill's Peru and Mexico - 

Hinchliffs Travels in the Alps - 

Hind's North American Exploring 

Expeditions- - - - . 
Howitt's Victoria - - - - 
Hue's Chinese Empire - - . 
Hudson and Kennedy's Mont 

Blanc - - - - - 

Humboldt's Aspects of Nature 
Hutchinson's Western Africa 
Kane's Wanderings of an Artist - 
Lady's Tour round Monte Rosa - 
Lowe's Ceotral India in 1b57 & 1858 
M'Clure's iNorth-West Passage - 
Minturn's New York to Delhi 
Mbllhausen'B Journey to the Shpres 

ofthe Pacific - - - - 
Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers 
Ramsay's Glaciers of North Wales 

and Switzerland - . - - 
Senior's Journal in Turkey and 

Greece . - . - - 

Snow's Tierra del Fuego 
Tennent's Ceylon - - - - 
Weld's Vacations in Ireland - 

'• Highlands and Orcadia 

" Pyrenees - . - . 

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Whiteside's Italy - - - - ; 
Wills's " Eagle's Nest." - - 1 

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Simpkinson's Washington - 
Sir Roger DeCoverley - 
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